Japanese auto parts maker Takata pleaded guilty to fraud Monday and agreed to pay a $1 billion penalty for concealing a deadly defect in millions of its air bags.
Takata admitted hiding evidence that its air bag inflators can explode with too much force, hurling shrapnel into drivers and passengers.
The inflators are blamed for at least 16 deaths worldwide — 11 of them in the U.S. — and more than 180 injuries. The problem touched off the biggest recall in U.S. automotive history, involving 42 million vehicles and up to 69 million inflators.
The company's chief financial officer, Yoichiro Nomura, entered the guilty plea on Takata's behalf in federal court in Detroit. He also agreed that Takata will be sold or merge with another company.