By on December 23, 2015


Bloomberg (via Automotive News) reported that engineers at Honda demanded to know why Takata airbags were injuring drivers and passengers during a 2009 meeting held four months before investigators started their inquiry.

“Why does it explode? I want to know the truth,” an engineer identified as “Otaka” asked Takata’s CEO at the meeting, according to Bloomberg.

Minutes from a July 2009 meeting between Honda executives and Takata officials were made public as part of a lawsuit against the airbag maker.

Federal regulators Wednesday identified the ninth fatality linked to the defective airbags, which could burst so violently that they could spray metal shards into the passenger cabin. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials said the victim was a minor driving a 2001 Honda Accord near Pittsburgh in July, according to USA Today.

The teen was hospitalized and died several days after the crash, according to investigators.

Honda was Takata’s largest customer and owned 1.2 percent of the auto supplier when investigators began examining the defective airbags, according to Bloomberg.

In 2009, when the companies met outside Los Angeles, engineers at Honda accused Takata officials of being too slow to act and not treating the situation seriously.

The documents were unsealed as part of a Florida woman’s lawsuit against Takata and show that, as far back as 2005, engineers at Takata notified the company of falsified data and the company’s illegal practices.

According to the report, a Takata engineer named Bob Schubert wrote that the company was “prettying up” data about its airbags and that the company was lying about testing: “It has come to my attention that the practice has gone beyond all reasonable bounds and likely constitutes fraud,” he wrote in 2005, according to Bloomberg.

Honda, along with 11 other automakers, are recalling more than 19 million cars — with more than 23 million faulty inflators — in one of the largest recalls in history. NHTSA officials in November fined Takata more than $70 million, which could rise to $200 million if the company can’t fulfill its obligations.

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20 Comments on “Report: Honda Engineers Berated Takata Before Scandal Erupted...”

  • avatar

    Make them pay.

    The scales must be balanced.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Prettying up test data on a safety device? VERY BAD.

    They should pay, but it won’t be enough because Takata doesn’t have it.

  • avatar

    So, just to be clear: Honda knew they were planting Takata claymores in their cars, didn’t do anything with that knowledge, and didn’t share that knowledge with anyone else.

  • avatar

    This is why I’ve expressed that on the moral equivalency scale, Takata is right at the top of the pile. They knew there was an issue, there was a willful cover up, that appears to go to the highest levels, and we know people have died. The reality is more people have probably died than we will ever know. They doctored data, withheld information to automakers, fought and smeared victims in court, and have done it, knowingly, for over a decade.

    I can still drive my NOx producing VW – I’m harmed financially.
    I can remove the crap off of my ignition key in my GM.
    I can take the floor mat out of my Toyota/Lexus.
    I can have FCA buyback my Ram pickup.

    There isn’t a damn thing I can do if I have a Takata equipped car, and I have a 1% to 2% chance of having the very device meant to save my life in a severe accident actually kill me. When you do the math on the number of global vehicles impacted, and the failure rates, and the type and severity of injuries a failure can cause, the number of total consumers and users potentially impacted is staggering. It doesn’t come close to any of the above examples. The impacted vehicles go far beyond one maker, and interesting, the 04-07 Toyota Corolla/Matrix and Pontiac Vibe have the highest failure rates, at over 2%

    Honda’s continued use of Takata as a supplier and having consumers sign waivers is, on the moral equivalency scale, as even more crappy as GM in continuing to use ignition switches that they knew were marginal to their specification. At least GM didn’t say, “here sign this waiver on our used Cobalts.” It is a whole new level of go screw yourself.

    Honda should have terminated the relationship, and in the post-tsunami era even had a politically correct “out,” in 2011, giving them a chance to claim, “unspecified supplier issues and supply problems,” and transitioned away. If Honda knew to that level in 2009, with the whole automotive supply chain in economic downturn chaos, they could have easily found another vendor more than willing to sell capacity.

    It is a huge ball of suck.

    • 0 avatar


      I still don’t understand the VW-NOx fuss. Yes the scale is enormous, although in the US it’s not. The other diesel car next to you at the stoplight has the same high NOx coming out of the exhaust pipe. Only thing they didn’t (admit) they cheated during some unworldly test situation.
      It’s like your thought should be pure on during somekind of religious event going to church/hanukkah/ramadan but you can rape everybody during weekdays. Only thing is VW admitted their thoughts were not so pure.

      Having a live mine in front of you in my opinion is something very very different.

    • 0 avatar

      My heart-felt sorrow this Christmas goes out to the families of the 9+ U.S. drivers who died between 2001-2014 as a result of our corrupt cooperate overseers at Takata, Honda, etc.

      My heart-felt sorrow also goes out to 379,545+ who died from U.S. gun policy between 2001-2014. That’s an average of 30,000+ deaths per year.

      At least we have our priorities straight.

  • avatar

    Per the USA Today article Honda said they haven’t yet been able to examine the vehicle in this latest instance of occupant fragging.

    Isn’t the victim’s autopsy enough? How many other likely events could result in deep steel shrapnel wounds if those were indeed found in the body?

    It’s not like the kid was driving in Syria.

    • 0 avatar

      This is why I’ve said we will never know the actual body count, it is likely much higher. In a violent car accident in a modern vehicle, with airbags deployed, the victim could have appeared to died from other causes. Only a detailed autopsy by a ME who isn’t so squeezed for time they ask a lot of questions would result in, “wait a minute, this doesn’t look right.”

      The trump card Honda lawyers are likely looking for is, “well it wasn’t a survivable accident so not our fault as sad as it is.”

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, I expect Honda legal wants in on the investigation to obtain info on all the other trauma types suffered and insure that fragging is ruled only a contributing factor if even that.

        Even a craven Honda fanboi like me has to shudder at their handling of Takata’s turd in the punchbowl.

        • 0 avatar

          I know that hindsight is 20/20 on the internet. But it isn’t always obvious in real time that these problems are as large as they are, and it takes years for the patterns to emerge.

          Takata lied to its customers, which included but were not limited to Honda. It takes time to figure out that an apparent anomaly isn’t — it’s not as if every airbag that was deployed behaved in this fashion.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            This is exactly my position on the GM ignition problem, although Takata appears to have been cooking test data, while GM simply bumbled along.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, the GM ignition situation is similar.

            These are the types of problems that appear to be obvious to casual readers of blogs who read about them years after the fact, but they aren’t obvious to those who actually have to deal with them and figure them out as they are occurring. The failure rates are tiny and there need to be several failures before anyone realizes that there is a problem.

            And it’s not enough to discover the failure — then it becomes necessary to find a solution, which entails figuring out why it failed in the first place. These are not easy problems to identify or fix.

  • avatar

    It is my suspicion that Takata will not survive the end of the decade as now that Japanese companies are walking away from a home market supplier (something that almost never happens), the end is inevitable. They are doomed. Every time another one of these things goes full fragmentation grenade and slits the jugular of an unsuspecting driver, we learn just a bit more. Now it is clear that they’ve known full well what the problem was for at least ten years and have actively tried to cover it up, all the while still producing the same type of airbag because they’re cheap to make, human lives are cheap to pay for in wrongful death lawsuits and the profits were too fat to be ignored. I’m sure the Takata management knew what was going on and weighed their options but in the end, it was a bit like J. Bruce Ismay ordering the Titanic full speed ahead. I’m sure they realized they were in over their heads and no matter what they did, they were screwed. Might as well make as much money as you can before the party’s over and hope for the best.

    GM’s ignition recall was due to a massive corporation mired in bureaucracy that identified the problem but didn’t have the sense to change the f***ing part number for the revised ignition switch assembly. VW’s diesel scandal was the result of a corporate leadership style that lead by fear and intimidation and in which the ends always justified the means. Takata’s undoing shall be ignorance and a ‘holier-than-thou’ management style that suppressed the truth from genuinely concerned lower-level employees in the name of profits and because nobody seemed to notice until the sun came up and everybody saw what was going on in broad daylight. GM and VW will survive because consumers are forgiving and, given enough time, will usually forget. Takata will founder because they depend on automakers to purchase their products for their cars and the name is forever tainted.

    • 0 avatar

      I am sure that the competition wants to buy them up. they just have to wait for the lawsuits and bankruptcy to go through. It is a shame though. They were one of the biggest suppliers to many manufacturers. They were just looking to keep to cut costs. Unfortunately, even a one percent failure rate is to high when you are selling products that are supposed to save your life.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Is there any data on how this problem has affected the resale value of affected vehicles, particularly Hondas?

    The Honda Kool-Aid runs strong with many consumers, so I worry that unsuspecting buyers are picking up used Hondas without asking questions. It’s not like your local used car lot (or your Honda dealer, for that matter) really cares about the recall status of that vehicle on the four-square.

    Even my son’s used Sonata – purchased at the Hyundai dealer which serviced it since new – was sold with 4 outstanding recalls. I went somewhere closer to have them dealt with. None of his recalls were this important.

    • 0 avatar

      I imagine on the older ones (05 and earlier) its not hurting them at all, on the newer ones it might actually be a question which comes up and is a black mark on the car. I’d say thought the amount of “hurt” is <$500 in terms of resale and can easily be fixed by the recall. I have seen GM vehicles marketed as "recall done" but never have previously seen one marked as such on the block (i.e. written in chalk "recall done"). I could see it happening but infrequently.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to correct you. Honda requires every vehicle that comes in for service or traded in to have a VIN check for recalls. Some people are saying that Honda made some people sign waivers when the airbag recall started, but replacements are readily available now. We have to repair a trade in. If a customer comes in for an oil change, and they are not willing to wait for an airbag repair, it is noted on their repair order. Inflators are available to the parts department via normal ordering because Honda is using other suppliers.

  • avatar

    Really, at this point the story is more about Honda than Takata.

    Takata is toast; they have no chance at survival at this point. I mean, if you were at an automaker specifying parts, would YOU touch Takata with a 10-foot pole? It has yet to be determined how much they’ll owe in fines, lawsuits, and in payments to automakers, but I expect by this point that eventual number will be way more money than they can collect from their customer base. Their gloomy financial future will deter even MORE customers… on and on into the death spiral.

    Now Honda? They’ll survive this just fine, but it remains to be seen how much all this is going to cost them. When their supplier is gone, they’ll be nobody else left to blame (or pay.) This isn’t necessarily fair to Honda, as the blame certainly should be shared, but life isn’t fair.

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