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Takata allegedly hid failed airbag rupture tests in 2000

New evidence suggests Takata engineers knew about the dangers of the supplier's ammonium-nitrate-propelled airbag inflators as early as 2000, but employees hid or even destroyed test results. The allegations came out in a pre-trial hearing in a civil suit from a woman who claims that a forcefully deploying airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic paralyzed her.

The pre-trial hearing included an examination of a deposition from Thomas Sheridan, a former Takata airbag engineer, to see if the evidence was admissible for the case, according to the New York Times. Sheridan alleged that Takata created a report for Honda in June 2000 that showed the parts failed, but the supplier hid the testing data. The company also reportedly got rid of the ruptured components so that there was no physical evidence. "But when I went to look for the parts, because some of the parts had come apart, they were no longer available. They had been discarded," he said in the deposition, according to the Times.

Takata disputes these allegations, and one of the company's lawyers asserts the inflators in the 2001 Civic are safe. "None of them have ruptured, zero," attorney David M. Bernick told the Times. "We have no evidence, in fact we have evidence to the contrary, that this inflator was defective at the time of the accident." However, Honda has recalls for the driver's side airbag in the 2001-2005 Civic.

Previous reports also indicated some Takata employees allegedly knew the inflators were dangerous. For example, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal in 2015 cited internal memos from US employees in 2000 that complained that their counterparts in Japan altered or hid the results of failed validation tests. The New York Times also found evidence of engineers joking about manipulating results.

The first Takata inflator recall came on Isuzu models in 2001, and automakers have recalled millions of vehicles around the world since then. Several companies, including Honda, have pledged to stop using Takata's inflators, and he US government fined the supplier $70 million last year.


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