For their part in the largest US auto recall ever, the Takata Corporation is expected to pay up to a $1 billion financial penalty and plead guilty to criminal misconduct, the Wall Street Journal reports today. The National Highway Highway Traffic Safety Administration recalled some 42 million vehicles in the US alone after discovering Takata's faulty airbag systems could deteriorate over time and risk causing an explosion of hot metal shrapnel upon inflation. The Takata systems were responsible for 11 deaths and over 100 injuries worldwide.
In addition to the criminal misconduct charges, prosecutors at the US Justice Department may also try to hit the company with wire fraud, claiming Takata faked test information and intentionally hid information about the dangerous airbags. While the settlement is not finalized yet, the Journal notes that Takata will like be allowed to pay part of the penalty up front and spread the rest out over time. The final cost could range anywhere from the "high hundreds of millions" up to a billion and the Justice Department is eager to wrap up the case in January before the new administration takes over.