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Thanks to widespread news coverage or manufacturer notices in their mailbox, most people are now well aware of the massive auto recall covering airbags found in an array of vehicle models manufactured by everyone from Acura to Volvo.

To recap, federal regulators have estimated that roughly 32 million vehicles are now subject to the recall, the largest in U.S. history, covering faulty airbags manufactured by the Takata Corporation.

The problem is that Takata's faulty airbags and airbag inflators can explode without warning, sending metal shrapnel flying throughout the vehicle interior. To date, over 100 personal injuries and eight fatalities have been linked to the auto defect.

In recent developments, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has released a new report, thanks to the efforts of ranking minority member Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), detailing some shocking revelations concerning the actions of Takata during the midst of the recall.

The report, which was centered around roughly 13,000 internal documents and emails provided to the committee by Takata, made some of the following findings:

  • In 2009, roughly one year after Honda initiated a small-scale recall to replace defective airbags, Takata stopped conducting safety audits at its factories around the world and only re-launched them in 2011 as a means of saving money.
  • In 2013, Takata's airbag manufacturing plant in Monclova, Mexico introduced significant changes to assembly lines without receiving approval from the company's safety or engineering directors.

Another fascinating aspect of the committee's report is its criticism of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to take more aggressive investigatory actions back in 2008 and 2009 after Honda's recall actions, suggesting that such a step could have helped resolved the airbag defect years earlier.

In addition to calling on the NHTSA to leverage its own power to speed up the airbag recalls and improve its auto recall database, the committee report also calls on Congress to increase the agency's annual budget and boost the cap on automakers fines for safety violations from $35 million to $300 million.  

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out in the coming months and how the NHTSA responds. Stay tuned for updates …

If you have suffered serious personal injuries or lost a loved one because an auto defect, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.

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