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Feds Turn Up Heat on Foot-Dragging Takata

(CN) - Federal regulators said Friday they will start fining Takata $14,000 a day for ignoring two orders to cooperate in an investigation into its defective airbags.

In a letter to the Japanese auto parts supplier, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the company had failed to respond "fully or truthfully" to two orders made late last year to produce its testing data and other documents related to the airbags.

While Takata has so far produced "a deluge" of 2.4 million documents, it ignored orders to explain what the documents mean. And to make matters worse, the company blew off providing any more information about the documents to investigators at a Feb. 4 meeting that took two months to set up, the NHTSA said.

"The meeting was unproductive and a waste of agency time and resources," the letter stated. "At this point Takata has still not taken any steps to provide the agency with an explanation of the documents it has produced."

Ignoring the agency's two orders carries a civil penalty of $7,000 per day for each order, and will continue to accrue until investigators are satisfied with Takata's response.

"If we do not obtain resolution of this matter in short order, Takata should be aware that NHTSA intends to begin noticing the depositions of Takata employees located in both the United States and Japan," the agency said, adding that it would also get the Justice Department involved if further enforcement is needed.

Takata's airbag inflators can explode on deployment, sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment of equipped vehicles. More than 18 million vehicles have been recalled in the United States, and at least six deaths have been linked to the defect worldwide.

The company believes high heat and humidity causes older airbags to explode, and balked when federal regulators in December ordered the company to expand the recall outside hot and humid regions.

Takata said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the NHTSA's letter, and claims it has been fully cooperative throughout the investigation.

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