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Takata Pressured By Congress To Take Air Bag Recall Nationwide

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill blasted the Japanese supplier Takata for refusing to participate in a national recall of its air bags. So far, the potentially deadly air bags have been recalled in warm and humid areas where they may be most likely to rupture. While Takata is resisting a nationwide recall, Honda said Wednesday it would recall all its vehicles with Takata driver-side airbags in the U.S.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH: The company Takata can't explain why its air bags can rupture and send shards at drivers and it's still ignoring a government order to expand recall nationwide. That was the bottom line of a Congressional hearing today. Meanwhile, automakers whose cars have those air bags are under increasing pressure. Honda is the latest company to expand its recall.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON: To begin with, let's remember this piece of information - December is one of the most important shopping months in the car business and customers who are shopping are paying attention. Armed thusly, cut to a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee lead by Lee Terry, a Republican from Nebraska.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

CONGRESSMAN LEE TERRY: Safety recalls are often marked by tragedy. That's what brings it to our attention, but they are even more troubling when they - the very equipment being recalled is intended to save lives.

GLINTON: That's part of why this recall has stuck so intently in the news. Takata contends the problem is confined. Here's Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky questioning Takata's senior VP, Hiroshi Shimizu.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

CONGRESSMAN JAN SCHAKOWSKY: So are you saying that it is only in high-humidity areas that this is a problem? That that is the root cause?

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

HIROSHI SHIMIZU: We considered it's a main contribution to the problem. It's high temperature and high humidity, absolute humidity, together with age of the product and probably may be in combination with malfunctioning issues.

GLINTON: Takata is defying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. NHTSA wants the recall to be national, the idea being partly that you may have bought a car in Florida and driven it there for years and then moved to Minnesota. Here's New Jersey Republican Leonard Lance questioning Shimizu.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

CONGRESSMAN LEONARD LANCE: So you are dramatically and diametrically in opposition to the view of NHTSA. Is that accurate?

GLINTON: And after pausing to confer with his interpreter, Shimizu responded.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

SHIMIZU: Yes that is correct. That is our statement.

GLINTON: While Takata isn't taking its recall nationwide, automakers like Honda and BMW are. Honda today announced today its expanding its recall nationwide. Unlike Takata, which is a supplier and has a dozen or so customers, car companies deal directly with millions of consumers, consumers who pay attention to the news.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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