In an escalating standoff with Takata, federal regulators said Friday that they will begin to fine the Japanese auto supplier $14,000 a day, saying it had not fully cooperated in an investigation into defective air bags.
A letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to Takata said the company had failed to respond “fully or truthfully” to two orders that it turn over documents and information related to the defect.
Takata’s air bag inflaters can explode violently when they deploy, sending shrapnel into a vehicle’s cabin. More than 18 million vehicles with the faulty air bags have been recalled in the United States, and at least six deaths worldwide and several injuries have been linked to the defect.
Takata did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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The fines are only the latest chapter in what has become an increasingly tense showdown between Takata and the safety agency.
In December, Takata defied an order by safety regulators that it expand recalls of driver’s-side air bags beyond certain geographic regions associated with high humidity. Most major automakers, including Honda, Chrysler, Ford and Mazda, have broadened the recalls to cover the entire country.
Takata said the agency did not have the authority to compel it to expand the recall.
At the same time, the safety agency said it had been stymied in its efforts to better understand the defect. Though the company has turned over 2.4 million documents to regulators, the agency said it had not helped regulators fully understand them.
“NHTSA has repeatedly engaged Takata and asked for the company’s explanation of the content of the deluge of documents that it has produced,” the letter said.
The $14,000 fine stems from violations of two special orders from the safety agency. Each violation carries a fine of $7,000 a day, the maximum allowed.
If the matter is not resolved quickly, the agency said, it will begin the process of deposing Takata employees in the United States and Japan.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the Takata penalty Friday in Richmond, Va., while promoting stronger auto safety enforcement rules.