Former Takata Engineer Willing to Testify on Deadly Air Bag Issues

Feb 07, 2015 11:00 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

A former Takata engineer has told a U.S. congressional committee that he would testify against his former employer after warning the company of deadly consequences before they selected a design for faulty airbags.

The engineer, Mark Lillie, left the auto-parts maker back in 1999, before the company started making inflators with ammonium nitrate-based propellant. He said his departure was due to Takata's disregard of warnings against using the chemical compound ammonium nitrate in company airbags, according to Bloomberg.

Takata chose to ignore his warnings and as a result more than 24 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide with faulty inflators made by the company. Air bags can deploy with too much force, causing them to rupture and shoot out metal fragments at occupants.

The Japanese parts supplier formed an independent review panel recently in order to investigate manufacturing weaknesses that pushed the company into the middle of a global recall disaster. Despite the recalls, and the fact that its air bags have been linked to six deaths, Takata has defended its decision to use ammonium nitrate propellant thus far.

The new review panel will "conduct a comprehensive review to ensure Takata's current manufacturing procedures meet best practices in the production of safe inflators," Takata said in the e-mail to Bloomberg. "We look forward to their findings and recommendations, which will be shared publicly at the culmination of their review."

Takata has been criticized all over the world, especially by U.S. lawmakers, for its continued use of ammonium nitrate in replacement air bags for recalled vehicles. A recent review conducted by Bloomberg on Takata's patents showed company researchers were made aware of the instability of ammonium nitrate for as far back as 1985.

Ten automakers, including GM, Honda, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, have joined forces to hire an independent engineering firm to investigate a number of issues with air bags supplied by Takata.

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