Takata told a U.S. safety agency this week that its demand for a nationwide air bag recall is not supported by evidence, and the government doesn't have the right to tell a parts maker to conduct a recall.
The company stated its position in a letter on Tuesday to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration obtained by The Associated Press. Takata's decision sets the stage for a big confrontation at a House subcommittee hearing on the issue later today.
"It is Takata's current view that the currently available, reliable information does not support a nationwide determination of a safety defect in all vehicles equipped with the subject driver-side inflators,'" the company's head of product safety wrote in the letter.
NHTSA called Takata's response "disappointing" in a statement, adding that it will look over the response to figure out the agency's next steps.
Just a week ago, the agency threatened civil fines and legal action if Takata didn't confirm that the driver's air bag inflators are defective and agree to a recall. The inflators can explode with too much force, spewing shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
Takata said to Frank Borris, director of NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation, that the safety administration is basing its demand for a national recall on "slim evidence."
Five deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to the issue around the globe. A national recall would add approximately 8 million vehicles to previous recalls, Takata said.
Recalls have been limited to high-humidity areas in Florida, Hawaii, along the Gulf Coast and in some U.S. territories. Takata claims that it has tested 1,057 driver and passenger inflators from locations outside the high-humidity zone. None of them have ruptured, according to the Associated Press.
"If those testing efforts or data from other sources indicate the existence of a safety defect beyond the scope of the current campaigns, Takata will promptly take appropriate action," the company said in its letter.
NHTSA can impose fines of up to $35 million, according to the AP.