Takata, NHTSA and Honda executives soon face a Senate committee hearing

Takata, NHTSA and Honda executives soon face a Senate committee hearing

Now supplier Takata is the subject of a US criminal investigation over defective car air bags that have been linked to five deaths, its executives and those from major customer Honda Motor are expected to face congressional hearings in the coming week, a media report said.

A federal grand jury in New York has subpoenaed Takata's US unit to produce documents on the air bag defects, a Tokyo-based spokesman told Reuters.

Separately, the US Senate commerce committee has scheduled a hearing next Thursday to solicit testimony from Takata executives on air bag defects, as well as from officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the vehicle recall process. Honda said it would also send a representative to testify before the Senate committee on Thursday, the news agency reported.

Defective Takata air bag inflators have been found to explode with dangerous force in accidents, sending shards of metal into the vehicle.

A Takata spokeswoman in Tokyo told Reuters the company is preparing to add two new production lines at its plant in Monclova, Mexico, to make replacement air bag inflators - the explosive devices that allow air bags to inflate in a fraction of a second during a crash. A January start-up is planned for the new production lines in Mexico, the company said.

Takata said it could not disclose the scope of the capacity increase but noted it had been planned before Honda's latest recall was announced.

Takata earlier told analysts in Tokyo that it was making "constant improvements" to the chemical compound used in its inflators, but said they were not related to any defects or accidents.

Since 2000, Takata has made more than 100m inflators, according to industry estimates and company data collated by Reuters. Since 2008, more than 17m cars equipped with Takata air bags have been recalled, including over 11m in the US.

In a statement posted this week on Takata's website, CEO Shigehisa Takada apologised to customers and shareholders for the recalls: "Our whole company will strengthen our quality management structure and work to prevent an incident from occurring again," he said.