TOKYO, Japan - The Takata corporation, a Japanese vehicle-parts maker at the centre of a global vehicle recall, is facing law suits, a possible criminal probe and accusations of "deception and obfuscation" over a car crash-bag defect linked to several deaths.
The New York Times reported that Takata, the world's second-largest maker of car crash-bags, covered up the fatal defect for years - investigators are probing key client Honda over similar allegations.
Many South African drivers have or might still be affected as local automakers recall thousands of vehicles (we've included a list of SA models affected at the end of this article).
TIMELINE TO DISASTER
Following are some key events leading to the recall of several million cars fitted with potentially defective air bags made by Takata:
Nov 4 - Honda Motor recalls 4000 Accords and Civics (2001 models) globally as Takata bag inflators may produce excessive internal pressure causing them to rupture and spray metal fragments in the car's cabin.
May 27 - Oklahoma teenager Ashley Parham dies when the bag in her 2001 Honda Accord explodes, shooting metal fragments into her neck. Honda and Takata deny fault but settle for an undisclosed sum.
July 29 - Honda recalls 510 000 Civics, Accords and Acura 3.2 TL cars (2001-02 models) globally for potentially defective Takata bags.
Dec 24 - Gurjit Rathore is killed in Virginia, US, when the a bag in her 2001 Honda Accord explodes after a minor crash, severing neck arteries, court documents revealed. Rathore's family sues Honda and Takata for more than R841-million in April 2011, claiming they knew of the bag problems as early as 2004.
Honda and Takata settle in January 2013 for R33-million, according to court documents.
Feb 9 - Honda recalls 437 000 Acuras and other vehicles (2001-03 models) globally, expanding earlier recalls and saying there were two processes used to prepare bag-inflator propellant and one "does not provide us with the same confidence".
April 27 - Honda recalls 896 000 Honda and Acura 2001-03 cars to find defective Takata bag inflators installed as replacement parts.
Dec 1 - Honda again expands recalls. Globally, it says, 304 000 are recalled as a bad inflator may have been installed at the factory and 613 000 are recalled to find defective inflators installed as replacement parts.
April 11 - Toyota, Honda, Nissan Motor and Mazda Motor recall 3.4-million vehicles globally due to possibly defective Takata bags.
April 18 - Takata to book extraordinary loss of R3-billion for year to March 2013 for recall-related costs.
May 7 - BMW recalls 220 000 vehicles globally, raising the overall recall for the latest Takata-related issue to moe than 3.6-million.
May 10 - Takata posts record R2-billion annual net loss and names Swiss national Stefan Stocker as president, the first foreigner in the post.
Sept 3 - A third death is linked to Takata bags after Devin Xu dies in a 2002 Acura TL sedan in a car park crash near Los Angeles from "apparent facial trauma due to foreign object inside air bag", according to coroner's report.
June 11 - Toyota expands prior recall to 2.27-million vehicles globally; adding 650 000 previously not recalled in Japan, and 1.62-million overseas for a second time.
NHTSA opens probe that goes beyond manufacturing glitches Takata and Honda previously identified. NHTSA is examining whether driving in high-humidity regions contributes to the risk of Takata bag explosions.
Takata says inflators in the recall were supplied to Honda, Toyota, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda and Nissan. It says there is nothing to indicate any safety defects in these inflators.
June 23 - Honda, Nissan and Mazda recall 2.95-million vehicles, expanding the April 2013 recall, bringing the total recall to about 10.5-million vehicles over five years. Later, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, BMW, Chrysler and Ford say they are recalling more vehicles in some US high-humidity regions at NHTSA's request to replace Takata bag inflators.
June 26 - Takata CEO apologises to shareholders at AGM.
June 30 - Takata says some potentially defective inflators were also shipped to Subaru and Mitsubishi.
July 16 - BMW recalls about 1.6-million cars worldwide to replace Takata bags, going beyond the regional US recall.
July 18 - Takata to book special loss of about R4-billion in April-June for recalls.
Oct 2 - Fourth death linked to Takata bags. Orlando woman Hien Thi Tran dies four days after her 2001 Honda Accord is in an accident in which the bag explodes, shooting out shrapnel, according to the police report.
Oct 20 - Toyota recalls 247 000 vehicles in the US for Takata bag problems.
Oct 21 - Takata shares drop 23% in Tokyo.
Oct 22 - NHTSA expands the total number of US vehicles recalled involving Takata bags to 7.8-million over the previous 18 months.
Oct 27 - A first case seeking class-action status is filed in Florida, claiming Takata and automakers, among them Honda and Toyota, concealed crucial information on potentially defective bags.
Oct 30 - NHTSA orders Takata to provide documents and answer questions under oath in bag probe. On November 5 NHTSA orders Honda to do the same.
Nov 6 - Takata warns of a bigger full-year loss and pays no interim dividend for first time since 2006.
Nov 7 - New York Times reports Takata ordered technicians to destroy results of tests on some bags after finding cracks in inflators.
Democratic lawmakers call for criminal probe into Takata.
Nov 10 - Takata shares drop 17% to 66 -month low.
Nov 13 - Honda says investigating death in Malaysia in July of a Honda City driver hit by shrapnel from Takata bag during a crash - if conclusive, this would be first such fatality outside the US; also recalls 170 000 cars in Asia and Europe, taking total Takata-related recalls, excluding US regional recalls, to 6.2-million.
Many automakers have issued recalls in South Africa to resolve Takata's exploding bag issues.
Here's a list of local recalls issued. Is your car among them?
'Exploding' bags: GM halts Cruze sales
Giant recall for BMW: SA affected
Honda, Mazda, Nissan issue recalls over air bags
Toyota recall: Over 4000 SA Corollas affected
'Exploding' airbags: 2-million Hondas recalled