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US Imposes Record Fine on Japanese Air Bag Maker

FILE - Parts department worker Frank Jorge stands next to boxes containing recalled Takata air bag inflators that were removed at the AutoNation Honda dealership in Miami, Florida, June 25, 2015.

The top U.S. car safety agency imposed a record $200 million fine against Japanese air bag maker Takata on Tuesday for failing to warn the public and government about exploding bags.

Seven people were killed and about 100 were hurt when the bags, designed to protect drivers and passengers in an accident, unexpectedly exploded, sending large pieces of metal into heads and bodies.

"For years, Takata has built and sold defective products, refused to acknowledge the defect and failed to provide full information to the NHTSA [National Highway Transportation Safety Administration], its customers and the public," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Tuesday. "The result of that and denial has harmed scores of consumers and caused the largest, most complex safety recall in history."

Under the settlement, Takata will stop building and selling air bags using an ammonium nitrite propellant, which experts believe was one of the causes of the explosions.

Takata will also speed up the recall and replacement of bags in affected car models, including many Hondas.

Takata will pay a $70 million cash fine now and another $130 million if it fails to carry out all the terms.

Safety experts believe millions of cars around the world may be equipped with the faulty air bags. Cars driven in areas with high humidity are believed to be most at risk.

Regulators say they expect to have enough replacement parts in the priority areas ready by June.