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Honda Audit Provides More Evidence Takata Manipulated Test Data

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Investigators have been looking into how Takata Corp. managed the now infamous air bag problems over the past several years, checking to see who knew what and when, and whether Takata delayed sharing pertinent information about air bag safety tests.

The air bags, which can explode without warning, have been linked with at least 13 deaths and over 100 serious injuries. They are now the subject of thousands of lawsuits proceeding around the country.

As government regulatory agencies and automakers seek to find out more about how the defective design was allowed to remain for so long in so many vehicles, results of a joint audit commissioned by Takata and Honda show that the air-bag supplier regularly manipulated results of air-bag inflator tests, leaving out “bad” results to make the products look more reliable.

Audit Shows Takata Manipulated Air Bag Test Data

Honda started the audit in October 2015, examining all air bags made by Takata that were supplied to them. This was after the automaker had already conducted an internal review that indicated Takata may have manipulated air-bag test data.

Brian O’Neill, former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) president, led the audit, and reported that Takata engineers omitted some test results to reduce the air bag inflators’ performance variability. He told Bloomberg in a phone interview that the audit discovered examples of “selective editing” where Takata left out results to make the remaining results look better.

“We found evidence that the report that went to Honda was a shorter version of the original version,” he said, “and it was a prettier shortened version.”

The results may be used as evidence in pending Takata lawsuits, where plaintiffs claim the air bag manufacturer failed to adequately represent the risks of its product, or to conduct sufficient safety studies before releasing it onto the market.

There May be More Vehicles Recalled in the Coming Months

Honda, meanwhile, plans to use the results of the audit to help determine whether more air bags need to be recalled. The Takata air bag recall is already the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The recall has tripled in size over the past year, and currently stands at more than 100 million vehicles worldwide. Repairs are expected to continue through 2019.

Currently, 14 automakers are involved in replacing potentially defective Takata air bags. There may be more vehicles added to the list, however. This first phase of the Honda audit involved only air bag inflators that had not been recalled as of October 2015.

Takata Engineers Say Company Manipulated Test Data

In lawsuit depositions, some Takata employees have also admitted to manipulating air bag inflator test data. During one case involving a plaintiff who became a quadriplegic after her air bag exploded during an accident in a 2001 Honda Civic, some current and former engineers from the company stated that Takata had altered and misrepresented data in reports to automakers like Toyota, Nissan, and General Motors.

During a deposition in another lawsuit earlier this year, a former Takata engineer stated he witnessed alteration of test reporting when working on Nissan inflators in 2005.

The Honda audit is near completion, and final results should be available by the end of the year.