In what will become the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, automotive supplier Takata has pleaded guilty to fraud. The Japanese supplier, with its U.S. headquarters situated in Auburn Hills, Michigan, expressed “deep regret” for its actions over the 15 years it misled automotive manufacturers and consumers, according to The Detroit Free Press.
Takata allegedly knew of its airbag safety issues in 2000 but failed to address them. Instead, the company manipulated data, which was then provided to automakers, to sway them into purchasing Takata airbags over others.
Takata used explosive chemical ammonium nitrate to inflate air bags instantly in a crash, but the chemical compound was found to deteriorate when exposed to moisture. This would, in turn, spray deadly shrapnel at the faces of crash victims. The defective airbags have been linked to 16 deaths around the world.
Specifically, General Motors has issued safety recalls for 2007-2008 Chevrolet Silverado HDs, 2007-2008 GMC Sierra HDs, 2003-2008 Pontiac Vibes, 2008-2009 Saturn Astras, 2006-2011 Saab 9-3s, 2006-2009 Saab 9-5s and the 2005 Saab 9-2X. Each of these vehicles house the potentially fatal Takata airbags.
As of recent, GM also issued preliminary safety recalls for the 2009-2011 Chevrolet HD, 2007-2011 Chevrolet Avalanche, 2009-2011 GMC Sierra HD, 2007-2011 Sierra 1500, Yukon and Yukon XL and the 2007-2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT and ESV.
The guilty plea agreement includes a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million compensation fund and $850 million to be paid to automakers. The $1 billion sum will require Takata to sell its operations or merge with another company.
As of this report, Key Safety Systems, headquartered in Sterling Heights, Michigan, has emerged as the most likely candidate to purchase Takata.