DETROIT/TOKYO (Bloomberg) — Four months before U.S. regulators started their investigation, Honda Motor Co. executives sat down with Shigehisa Takada, the head of Takata Corp., to scold him for the way the manufacturer reacted to the crisis over its potentially deadly airbags, according to minutes of the meeting.
It seemed to be a rough session for Takada, the grandson of Takata’s founder.
One Honda engineer asked if his company grasped the gravity of the situation, chiding the CEO by saying he’d been too slow to act, the minutes show. The president of Honda’s North American manufacturing operations, Hidenobu Iwata, told Takada he was “constantly worrying” because the airbag maker didn’t appear to have control of the situation.
The meeting, at Honda’s offices outside Los Angeles, took place in July 2009.
In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened its probe into Takata’s product, which contained a chemical propellant that according to regulators could explode with such force that it turned metal casings into shrapnel. Scores have been injured and eight killed. The U.S. earlier this year ordered a dozen automakers to replace Takata airbags in 19 million vehicles, which ultimately could become the largest overall recall in U.S. automotive history.
Minutes of the meeting indicate the depth of frustration within Honda, which owns a 1.2 percent stake in Takata and had been its biggest customer. Honda is a defendant in most of the cases, and other automakers have also been sued.
“Honda was doing all they could to find out the cause and at every turn they were hamstrung and lied to,’’ said Ted Leopold, a lawyer representing a woman suing Takata in Jacksonville, Fla., who blames faulty airbags for rendering her a quadriplegic after a fender bender. Leopold provided Bloomberg News with the minutes of the July 2009 meeting, along with other documents recently unsealed in the case.