The Japanese supplier is required to provide the agency with records of communication with its customers or other parties, potentially revealing when the company and its automaker partners became aware of the safety issues.
The defective components have been blamed for several deaths and serious injuries due to shrapnel from exploding airbag inflators, which are believed to have been chemically altered by humidity.
The NHTSA has been criticized for repeatedly delaying or declining to take action after years of apparent problems with the airbag components. At least one investigation dates back to 2009 but was allegedly dropped after Honda hired former NHTSA officials to help deal with the situation.
Now — several months after the latest round of recalls began ramping up — the agency has finally issued a special order demanding documents and answers to lingering questions. Takata has until December 1 to respond or pay daily fines if it drags its feet.