Could the highly publicized deaths blamed on exploding Takata airbags have been prevented?
7 On Your Side found out some disturbing findings in a new congressional report. Investigators say Takata stopped conducting safety audits of airbag problems because they were too expensive.
Those safety audits stopped the same year engineers warned of potentially fatal improper welds on airbag inflators.
One engineer emphasized not doing anything was not an option.
At least eight deaths and one injury have been connected to the airbags since that warning.
Replacement air bags from Takata Corp. are safe - as long as they don't have a "batwing," an executive from the company told a Senate hearing.
Senators asked Takata Executive Vice President Kevin Kennedy whether consumers can be certain that the Japanese supplier isn't replacing recalled air bags with new ones that have the same defect.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., raised the possibility that replacement air bags could be recalled in the future.
Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, said the size of the Takata recall, which recently doubled to 33.8 million inflators and 32 million vehicles, is causing "recall fatigue and confusion." The large number also is causing delays in getting notices to consumers, he said.
The problem with the air bag inflators has persisted for more than a decade and impacts 11 automakers, including Honda, BMW and Toyota.
The safety agency has set up a special page on its website, www.safercar.gov, with information about the Takata recalls. But Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., suggested that many Americans aren't aware of the site.
Takata still hasn't determined exactly why its air bags can explode with too much force. The Japanese company believes the problem is related to long-term exposure to high heat and humidity.
Kennedy said the company has changed its design and is no longer using an inflator shaped like a batwing that was involved in eight fatal accidents. He also said Takata is using inflators made by its competitors and is continuing to improve its own designs.
Our partners at Consumer Reports has put together a comprehensive guide on the Takata recall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
7 On Your Side: Takata stopped safety audits due to high cost
7 ON YOUR SIDE