Takata Corp. has been under scrutiny for supplying defective airbags to millions of vehicles in the United States. Now, a new report divulges that the Japanese company discovered the issue as early as a decade ago but chose not to disclose its findings.

The faulty airbags with malfunctioning inflators could explode with tremendous pressure, spraying the vehicle's occupants with metal shards. In the past 18 months, the airbags provided by Takata have resulted in nearly 139 injuries and four deaths, as well as a lawsuit.

The cases prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate the matter. The NHTSA has asked the U.S. unit, TK Holdings Inc., to deliver the necessary documents to aid the probe by Dec. 1.

The latest disclosure says Takata had been aware of the issues with its airbags since 2004 but chose to keep mum, the New York Times reports. The publication received the alarming information from two former Takata employees; one of whom was a senior staff member in Takata's testing laboratory and found proof of an issue with the airbags. Executives, however, insisted the issue be concealed.

"Alarmed by a report a decade ago that one of its airbags had ruptured and spewed metal debris at a driver in Alabama, the Japanese manufacturer Takata secretly conducted tests on 50 airbags it retrieved from scrapyards, according to two former employees involved in the tests," reports the NY Times.

The executives allegedly gave orders to the lab technicians to erase the data from the tests despite learning that the steel inflators were susceptible to cracking. This vulnerability, in turn, leads to ruptures that send shrapnel inside the car flying in different directions.

The clandestine tests were conducted after regular work hours, holidays in summer 2004 and weekends at the company's U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

In the event that Takata fails to provide the required materials and satisfactorily convey to the NHTSA investigators what led to the recall of nearly 10 million airbags, the company would face a fine of $35 million.

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.