The automotive world could be on the brink of another global recall crisis.
Takata, the same company responsible for producing potentially deadly airbags in more than 100 million cars, may have also lied about the strength and safety of its seatbelts.
US company Joyson Safety Systems – which took control of Takata after the troubled supplier went bankrupt in 2018 in the wake of the global airbag scandal – is investigating whether the defunct outfit also misled car makers about the safety of its seatbelts.
So far, only Japanese car giant Toyota has been linked to the new safety scare, however Takata supplied at least 18 manufacturers, and at its peak produced close to one-third of all seatbelts in new motor vehicles globally.
A statement issued by Joyson Safety Systems said it is “conducting an investigation into belt webbing test data reporting inaccuracies in the company’s Hikone, Japan, webbing manufacturing facility”.
“The reporting issues arose long before the (JSS) acquisition of the plant from Takata in April 2018,” the statement continued.
“JSS is currently reviewing available and relevant data over a 20-year period on a test-by-test and product-by-product basis, which is a substantial undertaking. The investigation is ongoing and JSS is focused on clarifying the issues with urgency to identify the causes and take appropriate corrective measures.”
To date, JSS says it has “not identified any related field issues during the timeframe under investigation”.
However, investigations by JSS are continuing. Industry insiders say the company has flagged the potential safety issue early, out of an “abundance of caution”.
The car industry is on edge about the new safety scare because Takata plead guilty in 2017 to “criminal wrongdoing”, after it submitted false airbag inflator test results to the car companies it was supplying parts.
If JSS finds Takata sold unsafe seatbelts on a global scale it will inform “relevant regulators” around the world.
Although Toyota is so far the only manufacturer linked to the new safety scare, there is currently no evidence of faulty seatbelts, though investigations are continuing.
A statement from Toyota Australia said: “We have been informed that the JSS investigation is still ongoing and no issues have been identified with seatbelts currently produced. We are working to identify any affected vehicles as soon as possible. We have received this guidance from Japan’s regulator.”
The Toyota statement added: “The safety of our customers is a top priority and we are working to identify the affected vehicle models, any impact on those vehicles, and any necessary future actions as soon as possible.”
For now, owners of potentially affected cars are not being told to stop driving.
However, warnings remain for any cars in Australia that are still yet to have their potentially deadly Takata airbags replaced.
At last count, approximately 180,000 of close to 4 million potentially deadly Takata airbags were yet to be replaced.
Some airbags are deemed so volatile, owners of affected cars have been asked to stop driving immediately and have their vehicle towed free of charge.
Such vehicles also have a ban on their registration transfer or renewal.
Check if your car is affected here.
Check the progress on the free recall repairs here.
MORE: Everything Takata