Two U.S. senators urged the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into media reports that air-bag supplier Takata conducted secret tests on ruptures a decade ago.
The request, by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., came after The New York Times reported that secret tests were done at Takata’s U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.
The Times cited as its source two former Takata employees, one of whom was a senior member in the lab. They said testing began after an air bag ruptured in Alabama, spewing metal debris at a driver.
Steel inflators in two air bags cracked during testing, the employees said, but Takata executives discounted the results and did not report them to federal regulators, the Times reported.
Automakers using Takata air bags have recalled 7.8 million vehicles in the U.S. and more than 12 million vehicles worldwide because of a defect that can result in air bags exploding and spraying metal fragments into drivers and passengers.
Blumenthal and Markey released a statement Friday saying a criminal investigation is needed.
“If the reports are true, the company must be held accountable for the horrific deaths and injuries that its wrongdoing caused,” they said. “These allegations are credible and shocking — plainly warranting a prompt and aggressive criminal probe.”
Blumenthal and Markey, who are members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, last month asked Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to get the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide clearer guidance to drivers with potentially defective Takata air bags and issue a nationwide recall.