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Takata air bags recall: Honda engineer debunks own claim, says was mistaken

Company disclosed the detail in a statement submitted as part of its defense in Florida

Reuters  |  Detroit 

Motor Co on Friday released a 2013 email in which one of its engineers suggested that he knew some hidden truth about "the root cause" of Takata Corp air bag failures, but the engineer later said he was mistaken.

The engineer's email was disclosed in a statement from as part of its defense in a class action suit in Florida, where plaintiffs are seeking compensation for the lost value of vehicles due to defects in Takata air bag inflators. The inflators can explode with excessive force, launching metal shrapnel at passengers in and trucks.

The inflators prompted the automotive industry's largest ever and have been linked to at least 16 worldwide. Nine of the 11 have been reported in 2001-2003 model and Acura vehicles The engineer's July 18, 2013 email, originally written in Japanese and translated by Honda, is part of an exchange with a colleague at the automaker.

"I am a witness in the dark who knows the truth about Takata's inflator recall," the engineer, whose name is blacked out in Honda's statement, wrote in his email."If I say something to NHTSA, it will cause a complete reversal in the auto industry which adopted Takata inflators," added the engineer, who told his colleague he had been taken off air bag-related work by because of his supposed inside knowledge.

NHTSA is the acronym of the National Highway Administration.

In a sworn affidavit filed with a federal court and dated June 1, 2017, the engineer acknowledged he had been mistaken, however.

When he wrote email to his colleague, he was referring to an Oct 16, 1999 event in which a prototype Takata air bag inflator ruptured, the engineer stated.

Based on later findings by the NHTSA, "I now understand that I was incorrect and the root cause of the field events is not related to the root cause of the October 1999 rupture," he said.

did not name the engineer. But it said he was still employed by the company and that while it had no objection to the engineer testifying in the Florida case he had declined to do so.

also reiterated its position that it did not conceal knowledge of Takata defects, but instead was itself a victim of deception by Takata officials.

Peter Prieto, a lawyer for consumer plaintiffs in the Takata air bag litigation, said in a statement that had refused to present the engineer for a deposition.

The engineer's email was "just one of the many we have uncovered establishing that was well aware of the public risks posed by Takata's airbags," Prieto said.

First Published: Sat, June 24 2017. 03:49 IST