DETROIT (AP) — Embattled air bag maker Takata Corp. lacks processes that would improve the quality of its products, including air bag inflators that have been blamed for at least 11 deaths and 139 injuries, an outside panel hired by the company has found.
The panel chaired by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner determined that Takata has no program in place to find quality problems with its products once they are installed in cars and trucks. It also faults the company for letting products move through the design process with unresolved problems and says Takata needs to develop its own standards for testing quality and safety rather than relying on automakers and regulators.
The group, which includes three former heads of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was formed a year ago in the midst of a crisis with Takata air bag inflator failures. The company uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that instantly inflates air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to humidity and heat, burning too fast and blowing apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion. That can send shards of metal into drivers and passengers.
So far the company is recalling about 24 million cars and trucks in the U.S. and around 50 million worldwide to replace the inflators. In the meantime, the death toll and number of recalled vehicles keeps rising, with deaths reported in the past month outside of Pittsburgh and in Kershaw, South Carolina. Ten deaths have been reported in the U.S., with one and possibly two more in other countries.
Takata's quality and safety standards "should attempt to account for the fact that vehicles now often remain on our nation's roads for more than a decade and find themselves in multiple states with widely different climate conditions," said the panel's report, released Tuesday.
The panel said it was tasked with looking forward and its findings were not linked to past quality problems and failure of Takata inflators.