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Attorneys: 5 automakers knew Takata air bags were dangerous

Attorneys: 5 automakers knew Takata air bags were dangerous

This is not the first time in the Takata airbag fiasco where third parties accuse automakers that they were knowledgeable about potential problems with the non-desiccated airbag inflators made by the supplier, but continued using them for cost-related issues.

When an affected vehicle wrecked, these inflators would deploy with too much force, launching shrapnel at the drivers and passengers. Chief financial officer Yoichiro Nomura spoke on behalf of the Tokyo-based company, saying the conduct was "completely unacceptable". Takata's recall was the biggest in USA history, as it involves an expected 42 million vehicles and 69 million inflators. On top of $1 billion in legal fines, Takata is expected to have to pay more than $7 billion to pay for the fixes. USA prosecutors have referred to auto makers as victims of Takata's fraud.

A court-appointed special master will oversee administration of the restitution funds. "And no surprise that Takata followed the lead of General Motors and Volkswagen in hiring attorney Kenneth Feinberg to oversee its compensation fund".

Takata Corp had been accused of knowingly using faulty airbag inflators despite being aware of their safety risks. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to prolonged airborne moisture. This can cause a metal canister to explode. US prosecutors still are seeking extradition of three former Takata executives from Japan to face criminal charges.

Takata is "fully committed to ensuring that such conditions never happen again", Nomura said. In addition, plaintiffs in dozens of lawsuits against the air bag maker and five automakers allege the auto companies knew that Takata's products were unsafe yet continued to use them for years in order to save money.

Honda said the plaintiffs' court filing contained "false assertions that Honda and other manufacturers behaved irresponsibly" and represented a "transparent effort" to maintain legal claims despite Takata admitting to deceiving the Japanese auto maker and other vehicle companies. They remain in Japan.

Steeh told parties in court that he had considered tougher sentencing. They contended language in the plea agreement would help the automakers' defense because it painted them as victims of Takata's deception.

But lawyers representing victims in the case said the large automakers were hardly blameless in the fiasco.

According to the filing, an airbag from Takata was described as a "killing weapon" by one of the manufacturers as early as 2009. The company was not identified.

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