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safety matters

Report: Airbag maker found defect in product, but didn't tell regulators

Two former employees of Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata say that in 2004, the company first heard about an airbag rupturing and releasing metal debris that injured a driver, but after conducting tests decided against telling federal safety regulators.

The employees told The New York Times that the company went to scrap yards and found 50 airbags to use in tests. Two of the airbags cracked, which can cause a rupture. Engineers quickly began to come up with ways to repair the airbags, but executives ignored the report and and told technicians to delete the testing data from computers and destroy the tested airbags, the employees said.

A recall finally took place in 2008, after later trials revealed problems with airbags; Takata, which manufactures about 20 percent of airbags on the global market, said that was the first time they had conducted tests. Today, 14 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide from 11 different automakers due to rupture risks. Four deaths have been linked to the problematic airbags, and regulators have received complaints about Takata airbags injuring 139 people.