Source: New York Times / November 3, 2015 -In the stiffest civil punishment ever imposed in the auto industry, federal regulators levied a penalty of up to $200 million on Takata, the maker of millions of faulty airbags, for failing to disclose the defect to regulators in a timely manner.
Takata is being fined $70 million, and could face an additional $130 million penalty if it fails to abide by its consent order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which includes the appointment of an independent safety monitor.
As part of the agreement, Takata is required to phase out the manufacture and sale of inflaters that use phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate propellant.
The penalty was announced at a news conference on Tuesday by Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, and Mark R. Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Takata said it had isolated the problem. It said it had uncovered the mistakes that led to ruptures and it had pledged its products were safe,” Mr. Foxx said. “But we know that the ruptures have continued.”
“American drivers should not have to worry that a device designed to save their life might actually take it,” he said.
Unless Takata can prove its airbags are safe or can show it has determined why its inflators are prone to rupture, Mr. Foxx said, Takata will be required to recall all of its ammonium nitrate inflators now on the roads.
“There are potentially millions more” vehicles that would need to be recalled, he said.
The penalty comes as regulators have imposed a series of increasingly aggressive penalties against manufacturers that break auto safety laws. In January, Honda was given a $70 million penalty, in part for failing to report hundreds of death and injury claims to the government, as required by law. Last year, General Motors was penalized $35 million for not promptly reporting a defective ignition switch to regulators. In July, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay as much as $105 million to the government for failing to complete 23 safety recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles.