Auto parts maker Takata ordered destruction of airbag test results in 2004: report

Troubled Japanese auto parts supplier Takata Corporation, in the midst a global recall of vehicles over faulty airbags, had tested its airbags far earlier than previously admitted, and hid the results, according to a New York Times report.

Takata, one of the largest suppliers of airbags to global automobile makers, had secretly conducted tests on 50 airbags it retrieved from scrapyards after one of its airbags had ruptured in 2004 during an accident and spewed metal debris, the report said, citing two former employees involved in the tests.

During the secret tests, the steel inflaters in two of the airbags cracked, the former employees said, leading to the company looking for fixes ahead of a recall.

The tests were carried out post work hours and holidays at Takata's US headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the former employees told the paper.

Instead of recalling or alerting the US federal safety regulators to the possible danger, Takata executives ordered the lab technicians to destroy the test data, the paper said.

Although the tests were carried out in 2004, it was not until 2008 that Takata first reported the problem in a regulatory filing, saying that it had now conducted test on the faulty airbags and issued recalls in November 2008.

Around 10 automakers have recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide over faulty airbags and four deaths have and several cases of serious injuries have been reported tied to the faulty airbags.

When an accident occurs, airbags inflate faster than a blink of the eye.

Airbags are key components in automotive safety systems, and, although it cannot be seen how it performs under normal conditions with the naked eye, they soften the impact of collisions by keeping passengers from contacting the steering wheel, dashboard, front glass, and other parts of the automobile.