Takata Corporation has agreed to plead guilty to concealing a deadly defect in its airbag inflators. The Japanese automotive parts company will pay a total of $1 billion in fines and restitution.
The US Attorney's Office in Detroit announced Friday that Takata Corp. had pleaded guilty to a single criminal charge after hiding a fatal defect in its airbag inflators.
Prosecutors alleged that Takata falsified test data to deceive automakers that used its inflators in their vehicles. On learning in 2009 that employees had falsified airbag reports, senior Takata executives failed to take disciplinary action against those employees until 2015.
"Cheaters will not be allowed to gain an advantage over the good corporate citizens who play by the rules," said US district court judge Barbara McQuade.
$1 billion in fines
Under the guilty plea, Takata will pay a $25 million (23.5 million euros) criminal fine, $125 million to individuals who were injured by the airbags and $850 million to automakers that purchased the inflators.
Payments to individuals must be made soon, which money due to carmakers due to be paid within five days of Takata's anticipated sale or merger.
Takata is expected to be sold to another auto supplier or investor sometime this year.
Some 100 million Takata airbags have been recalled since 2008. When an airbag is deployed, metal and plastic shrapnel from the inflator canister can be hurtling toward drivers and passengers.
At least 15 deaths and more than 150 injuries have been linked to the defect worldwide, with 10 related deaths in the United States alone.
According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Takata airbags were installed in "tens of millions of US vehicles."
German carmaker BMW was also affected, prompting the recall of hundreds of thousands of vehicles.
As of 2015, Takata was the second-largest supplier of airbags in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the airbags sold.
ksb/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)