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U.S. fines Takata at least $70 million for faulty air bags that killed 7

The U.S. Department of Transportation has imposed a fine of at least $70 million on Japanese auto supplier Takata for faulty air bags that are believed to have led to the deaths of at least seven people in the United States. The fine can be increased to a record $200 million if Takata fails to meet its commitments or if additional violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act are discovered.

As part of the requirements imposed on Takata, the company will have to phase out the manufacture and sale in the United States of inflators that use phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate propellant. It also lays out a schedule for recalling all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators which are currently used in U.S. vehicles, unless the company can prove they are safe.

The air bag inflators using phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate propellant are believed to be a factor in explosive ruptures that have caused 7 deaths and nearly 100 injuries in the United States.

For years, Takata has built and sold defective products, refused to acknowledge the defect, and failed to provide full information to NHTSA, its customers, or the public," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, referring to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of the department. "The result of that delay and denial has harmed scores of consumers and caused the largest, most complex safety recall in history. Today's actions represent aggressive use of NHTSA's authority to clean up these problems and protect public safety."

As part of an agreement, Takata has admitted that it was aware of a defect but failed to issue a timely recall, which is a violation of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. NHTSA also issued findings that Takata provided the department with selective, incomplete or inaccurate data dating back to at least 2009, and continuing through the agency's current investigation. Takata was also found to have provided its customers with selective, incomplete or inaccurate data.

In addition, Tuesday's order also imposes "unprecedented oversight" on Takata for the next 5 years, to be carried out by an independent monitor selected by NHTSA to assess, track and report the company's compliance with the phase-out schedule and other requirements, and to oversee a Coordinated Remedy Program.

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