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NHTSA orders Takata to preserve airbag inflators

by Justin King

The government does not want Takata to destroy airbag inflators that are being removed from vehicles during the recall process.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered Takata to preserve all airbag inflators that are being removed during the recall process.

The agency wants the company to keep all of the components to serve as evidence in the ongoing federal investigation and private litigation cases. The order also demands access to all data from the testing of removed inflators.

"There is a strong public safety interest in ensuring that testing moves forward, and that NHTSA has access to all test data," said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. "We have worked closely with attorneys for private plaintiffs to construct this order so that it protects plaintiffs' legal rights while also supporting our efforts to protect public safety."

Takata must notify the NHTSA of its detailed plan to gather, store and preserve inflators that have already been removed from recalled vehicles. The company has also been told to make 10 percent of the components available to private plaintiffs for independent testing.

Several whistleblowers came forward last year and accused Takata of intentionally covering up test results that allegedly spotted problems with the inflators as far back as 2004. More recently, the NHTSA levied daily fines against the company for allegedly failing to comply with investigators. The latest move suggests government officials are still worried about Takata destroying evidence to further hinder several ongoing inquiries.

The NHTSA has also upgraded the investigation to a formal "engineering analysis," putting additional resources behind attempts to determine the root cause of the problems.

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