Takatas chairman has said the supplier will consider using rivals products to help with replacing potentially dangerous airbags

Takata's chairman has said the supplier will consider using rivals' products to help with replacing potentially dangerous airbags

The US National Highway and Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) has said airbag maker Takata's response to an order to expand a recall nationwide was "disappointing", and criticised the supplier for avoiding responsibility over its potentially deadly air bags.

Reuters reported Takata, at the centre of a worldwide recall of over 16m cars in the past six years, had until Tuesday (2 December) to respond to the NHTSA order to expand a [hot and humid weather states] regional recall and replace driver side air bags across the US.

The news agency said Takata had not made its response to NHTSA public but a spokeswoman in Tokyo reportedly said the contents echoed a statement by the company's chief executive on Tuesday. In that statement, Shigehisa Takada left the decision for a nationwide recall up to automakers and made no mention of whether Takata was admitting that its air bag inflators were defective, as ordered by NHTSA last week.

"Takata shares responsibility for keeping drivers safe, and we believe anything short of a national recall does not live up to that responsibility," NHTSA said in an email to Reuters. The regulator said it would review Takata's response to determine its next steps.

Ordering a nationwide recall last week, NHTSA said it could begin steps to fine Takata up to $7,000 per vehicle not recalled, as well as force a recall. The maximum penalty under current law is $35m.

At least five deaths have been linked to Takata inflators, which can explode with excessive force and fire metal shrapnel inside cars. Takata faces a criminal probe, more than 20 class action lawsuits, and congressional scrutiny over its inflators. The company supplies around a fifth of the world's air bags.

Reuters noted Japanese government officials have expressed concern that Takata's repeated recalls could dent the reputation of the country's vehicle industry. One anonymous official told the news agency it would be "disastrous" for Takata not to comply with NHTSA's demand.

According to the report, Takada, in his statement released on Tuesday in the US, outlined steps aimed at demonstrating Takata's commitment to safety, including forming an independent panel to audit its manufacturing procedures.

The supplier has recruited three former US transportation secretaries to help it navigate the growing crisis.

Samuel Skinner, a former White House chief of staff and US Transportation Secretary, will lead an independent quality panel while Rodney Slater and Norman Mineta will advise Takata.

A report by the panel headed by Skinner on Takata's manufacturing processes will be made public, Takada said.

He said Takata would take "dramatic actions" to increase output of replacement air bag inflator kits, including working with rivals and examining whether their products can be used safely. "I know we can and must do more," he said.

According to Reuters Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata's senior vice president for global quality assurance, said in remarks prepared ahead of today's (3 December) Congressional hearing a phased-in recall should give priority to US regions with higher humidity - believed to be a factor in some air bag ruptures.

Honda North America executive vice president Rick Schostek reportedly said in his testimony that a national recall would lead to parts shortages but the automaker was "seriously considering" it for driver side air bag inflators.

Toyota North America vice president Abbas Saadat said in his testimony the automaker wanted "additional assurances about the integrity and quality of Takata's manufacturing processes".

Reuters noted that both Toyota and Honda on Tuesday called for independent industry-wide tests of Takata air bag inflators subject to recalls.

Takata chairman Shigehisa Takada's prepared remarks are here

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