Audit: Takata hid info about failed airbags

Takata logo (photo by Flickr user jo.schz)

Takata’s no-good, very bad month year decade has taken another sharp turn south: an audit has revealed that the supplier altered test results to make its airbag inflators seem safer than they actually were. 

As if that news weren’t cruel enough, the audit was commissioned by Takata’s former #1 client, Honda.

The person in charge of the audit was one Brian O’Neill. He says that, before sending test data to Honda, Takata routinely edited out the worst of its airbag test results to give the impression that the inflators were functioning well.  

The cover-ups don’t seem limited to a few rogue engineers, either. One former Takata employee blew the whistle on a co-worker, Shinichi Tanaka, who was allegedly tweaking test data. Though Takata said that Takana would be disciplined, instead, he was promoted, becoming the whistleblower’s boss. That suggests that management might’ve been in on the cover-up.

What happens now?

The Honda-funded investigation could make things exponentially worse for beleaguered Takata. Among the possible outcomes: 

There could be even more Takata recalls: Depending on the severity of Takata’s transgressions, Honda and other automakers might begin to question the safety of other Takata airbags, not just those that employed ammonium nitrate. 

There could be more investigations: This Honda-funded audit only covered devices approved for use in the U.S. It could, however, trigger broader investigations of Takata devices used in Honda vehicles elsewhere in the world, not to mention those employed in cars from other manufacturers. General Motors, Nissan, and Toyota are among those that could launch probes of their own.

It could make finding a buyer for Takata even tougher: Takata has repeatedly said that it doesn’t want to go through bankruptcy and that it’s actively looking for a buyer. Unfortunately, being responsible for the largest recall in automotive history isn’t exactly a strong selling point, and this audit isn’t likely to sweeten the deal for would-be investors.

Takata shares closed the day at 386 yen ($3.64). That’s roughly 10 percent of the 3,200 yen ($30.17) the shares commanded in January 2014.

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