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NY Times Gets Hold of Takata E-Mails. One of Them Bears “Happy Tampering” Inside

Like Volkswagen’s Dieselgate, the Takata airbag recall fiasco keeps unraveling new information. And it’s not any good.
Airbag 1 photo
Fortunately, this story isn’t about more deaths or injuries, but about a recent discovery of e-mails between Takata employees.

According to a story from the New York Times, newly obtained e-mails between Takata employees have revealed knowledge of unfavorable data from internal testing, along with the intention of manipulating them to make the data unseen.

An e-mail from 2006 written by an airbag engineer named Bob Schubert bears the text “Happy Manipulating!!!” after a reference to airbag tests.

Another e-mail by the same Takata employee to another co-worker revealed suggestions to make the results harder to spot.

According to NY Times, the employee suggested changing the colors or lines on some graphs to “divert attention,” so that his discussion partner could “try to dress it up.”

His conversation partner promptly replied, “If you think I’m going to manipulate, you really should try and get to know me better,” offering to deviate his results from “running slightly high” in tests at higher temperatures. Mr. Schubert then proceeded to defend himself writing that he did, in fact, manipulate testing results, but did that by amassing data together to disguise a phenomenon known as “bimodal distribution.” In layman’s terms, “bimodal distribution” refers to a situation where parts being tested are not consistent in results.

The mentioned e-mails got into the hands of NY Times editors after a personal injury lawsuit against Takata. The Japanese company defended itself in a statement which said that those e-mails only concerned “formatting of data” and were not related to defective airbags under recall.

Basically, the company officials defended Mr. Schubert and explained that he only changed the format of a presentation. According to Takata officials, the engineer “played a significant role in raising concerns about the previous testing data issues reference in the settlement with NHTSA in November 2015.”

Whatever the situation, we think such e-mails shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Our opinion is shared by Mark Lillie, an engineer who used to work for Takata, who stated that “these kinds of offhand remarks show that this is a systemic issue at Takata.”

According to NY Times, the Japanese company’s practice of altering test results for its airbags has been going on since at least the year 2000. Back then, Takata began to introduce a new type of airbag inflator. The same kind of inflator is linked to the massive recall admitted by the company in May 2015, which affected millions of vehicles worldwide.

In case you forgot, the inflators in the affected airbags could shatter when the safety device was deployed and the situation would send shrapnel through the vehicle’s cabin. A really dangerous situation considering the velocities involved with airbags.


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