Takata knew its airbags were at risk of exploding and sending metal debris at drivers years before it issued a recall, two unnamed former employees tell the New York Times. In fact, then-vice president for engineering Al Bernat witnessed airbag inflaters crack during secret tests at the Japanese company's US headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., in 2004, the workers say. As they tell it, some 50 airbags were sourced from cars in scrapyards and tested during off-hours. Two airbags' steel inflaters cracked during that testing, and engineers started working on prototypes of fixes. But three months later, the secret effort was axed, they say: "All the testing was hush-hush. Then one day, it was, 'Pack it all up, shut the whole thing down.' It was not standard procedure."
Further, they say all prototypes and video and computer data of the testing was ordered destroyed. Bernat had no comment for the Times, but the former workers say he brushed off the two damaged inflaters as having been "corrupted by weather" because they were taken from cars with cracked windshields. The company's first recall over airbag rupture risks came in 2008. Since then, some 14 million vehicles have been recalled; four deaths and 139 injuries have been blamed on the company's airbags. The New York Times' report digs into other alleged quality-control issues at Takata. Read the full piece here. (Read more Takata stories.)