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Takata To Pay $1 Billion In Settlement Over Airbag Scandal


The Takata Corporation is pleading guilty to criminal wrongdoing over its defective airbags which have been linked to deadly accidents. The company has agreed to pay $1 billion in fines, and three former executives have been indicted. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Sixteen people have died, and at least a hundred others have been injured in accidents involving Takata airbags. Here's how. Now, when an airbag goes off, it's started by a small explosion, so the idea is that the explosion is just big enough to blow up the giant pillow that protects you in an accident.

The problem with the Takata airbags is that the explosion was too powerful and can spray out these sharp metal pieces into the cabin of the car.


BARBARA MCQUADE: Takata has admitted to a scheme to defraud its customers by manipulating test data regarding the performance of its airbag inflators.

GLINTON: That's the U.S. attorney for Eastern Michigan, Barbara McQuade, announcing the settlement of the largest automotive recall ever.


MCQUADE: From at least the year 2000, Takata knew that certain inflators - that's the device that's in the airbag that makes them inflate - were not performing as they were supposed to.

GLINTON: Three former executives face possible jail time, though the case is far from over. Millions of air bags have yet to be replaced.

SEAN KANE: Meaning we're going to continue seeing deaths and injuries from these Takata air airbags as long as I'm doing this work.

GLINTON: Sean Kane is a safety advocate and consultant. He says there's an incentive for companies to cheat, including on safety. And the government just can't keep up.

KANE: And yet, we're seeing unprecedented technologies being introduced in cars at such a rapid rate. In today's world, much of the features on today's cars aren't even subject to regulations. And yet we're putting them into cars faster than people even know how to use them.

GLINTON: Drivers can determine if their car has a defective airbag or is under recall at the government website recalls.gov. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.
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