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House to hold Dec. 3 Takata hearing

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will hold a hearing Dec. 3 on the recall of more than 7.8 million vehicles by 10 automakers with possibly defective Takata Corp. air bags.

It’s the latest sign of growing scrutiny over the recalls linked to at least five deaths and 30 injuries as members of Congress push for automakers to expand air bag recalls nationally.

Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked five automakers — Honda, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda and BMW — to expand their recalls of some vehicles for driver-side air bags nationally, which are limited to some high-humidity areas. But NHTSA says there is not enough evidence to urge automakers to expand some passenger air bag recalls nationally.

The new hearing will be held by the subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and will include NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator David Friedman, Takata’s Senior Vice President of Global Quality Assurance Hiroshi Shimizu and representatives from Toyota, BMW, and Honda.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, chair of the Energy and Commerce Commitee, and his staff have been holding meetings to talk about possible auto safety reforms. Upton told The Detroit News last week he was planning to have a hearing.

Earlier this month, Takata said it has received a federal grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York. The company — which faces an investigation by NHTSA — said Thursday in a financial disclosure document that it faces a federal probe.

The Senate Commerce Committee’s chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and the senator that chaired last week’s hearing, Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on Monday asked Takata to turn over detailed records on its recalls. Nelson and others question if Takata’s propellant chemicals are faulty — and raised the possibility that Takata could be forced to recall the vehicles that have already been fixed.