Airbag manufacturer Takata has been at the center of the biggest automotive recall in history, as its faulty deployment systems have been linked to at least 98 injuries and at least eight deaths. It has been expected that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would issue a massive fine to Takata in the wake of the massive recall, and we now have that figure.
The Takata recall is the largest in the history of NHTSA. It involved 23 million airbag deflators in 19 million vehicles from 12 automakers. The result is now a fine of up to $200 million, the largest penalty in NHTSA/DoT history. Additionally, NHTSA is imposing “unprecedented oversight” on the supplier, and even assigning a dedicated safety monitor.
The reasons for this penalty were explained by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release from NHTSA. According to Foxx, “For years, Takata has built and sold defective products, refused to acknowledge the defect, and failed to provide full information to NHTSA, its customers, or the public,” He continued, “The result of that delay and denial has harmed scores of consumers and caused the largest, most complex safety recall in history. Today’s actions represent aggressive use of NHTSA’s authority to clean up these problems and protect public safety.”
According to the press release, the fine is structured as follows, “Of that $200 million fine, $70 million is payable in cash. An additional $130 million would become due if Takata fails to meet its commitments or if additional violations of the Safety Act are discovered.” So, if we’re reading this right, they might only pay $70 million.
For as much as the automakers involved probably like to be rid of Takata, they need the supplier to stay afloat if they plan on getting the inflators installed in all of their owners’ vehicles. According to USA Today, about 2.8 million units are being produced per month, with 70 percent of parts being produced by other suppliers to keep things on pace.
Of the 19 million vehicles involved in the recall, six million have been identified as being the highest priority to to the combination of the age of the vehicle and its location in an area of high humidity. Considering the danger to owners, as much as many would like to see Takata forced to close its doors, doing so would leave affected owners in danger.