Friday, 24 March, 2017

Lawsuit claims automakers 'far from innocent' in Takata recalls

Maker of faulty airbags expected to plead guilty to criminal charges Attorneys: 5 automakers knew Takata air bags were dangerous
Preston Stone | 01 March, 2017, 00:14

Japanese auto parts maker Takata pleaded guilty on Monday to a criminal charge and agreed to pay $1 billion for a scheme to hide a deadly defect in millions of its air bag inflators.

Thomas P. Willingham, an attorney for Shonda McCall, said in a court filing that the government's proposed plea agreement with Takata is with the Japanese parent company and shield's its USA subsidiary, Auburn Hills-based TK Holdings. He said actions of certain employees were "deeply inappropriate". The problem touched off the largest automotive recall in USA history, involving 42 million vehicles and 60 million inflators. US prosecutors still are seeking extradition of three former Takata executives from Japan to face criminal charges. One fund received $850 million and will be used to compensate automakers that were affected by the recall.

The appointment of 71-year-old Feinberg would bring to the case a lawyer experienced in administering some of the nation's highest-profile settlements.

After an inflator ruptured in 2009, one of the auto companies described the problem as "one in which a passenger protection device was transformed into a killing weapon", the court filing said. The filing says the allegations are partly based on auto company documents. The company was not identified in the court filing. On top of $1 billion in legal fines, Takata is expected to have to pay more than $7 billion to pay for the fixes. Toyota declined to comment.

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Judge Steeh said that he could've fined Takata up to $1.5 billion, but that doing so would've likely pushed the precariously positioned company over the edge, into bankruptcy.

Separately, three former executives are charged with falsifying test reports - they remain in Japan. Nissan also received warnings from another auto maker that the inflaters risked exploding years before it launched a nationwide recall of vehicles, the lawyers alleged.

Lawyers for USA vehicle owners have sued Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and other automakers, alleging they knew about the defective Takata inflators for years but kept using them.

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