Beleaguered Takata, the auto parts manufacturer whose airbag inflators are at the heart of what has grown to a 50-million-car safety recall, is apparently struggling under the load. According to a report today from Reuters, the airbag manufacturer is looking to the auto industry for financial help and plans to cull its senior officials, including the grandson of the founder, sources familiar said.
Struggling to supply the airbags required by the millions of recalled vehicles, Takata may be seeking strengthened ties with rival Daicel. Daicel and Takata are already working together to produce airbag inflators to meet the enormous demand. Despite this linkage, Japanese media have reported that Takata is hoping to form a joint-venture with Daicel to produce airbag components. A spokesman for Daicel said the company had not heard of plans for further link-ups. The spokesman said, “We are discussing ways to work with Takata to supply safe (air bag) inflators, although we have not decided on any details.” Takata had no comment.
Meantime, the U.S. ratcheted up the pressure more yesterday when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified the ninth U.S. fatality linked to an exploding Takata airbag inflator. A South Carolina driver, piloting a 2006 Ford Ranger pickup, died as a result of injuries sustained during the deployment of the driver-side front airbag in a crash last November. Worldwide the death toll in the Takata airbag scandal has climbed to 10 with nearly 100 persons injured.
Of the nine U.S. fatalities, eight of them were in Hondas. The ninth was the first in a non-Honda product, the Ford Ranger. That death and three other airbag inflator failures reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during tests of 1,900 devices taken from cars made by:
On the strength of these findings, the agency expanded the Takata airbag recall by 5 million vehicles. In the U.S., the additional cars and trucks will raise the number of vehicles involved from 19 to 24 million. Meantime, worldwide the added cars and trucks will push the total number of vehicles involved to more than 50 million. The costs to Takata are enormous. Attempting to put a figure on the cost, using Reuters’ estimated cost to repair one airbag inflator at $100 and extrapolating, Takata faces costs approaching $5 billion. Takata is also facing class action lawsuits and a major investigation by U.S. authorities which will further strain the airbag manufacturer’s resources.
To that end, sources indicated to Reuters, Takata is preparing to take its case for support to the auto industry next week. Apparently as part of its effort to attract money, Takata is preparing to jettison its front office, including the grandson of the founder, Shigehisa Takada, now president. Critics ripped the performance of the management team when news of the airbag scandal broke. The criticism has continued for more than a year though Takada has apologized and vowed to have the problem fixed.
Whoever is on the Takata team seeking the aid will have their work cut out for them. Major carmakers have been dropping Takata as an airbag supplier. The automakers include Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, and others. And, they have been hesitant to extend any aid, so far. Honda, for its part, has entirely erased Takata from its order books. The automaker has slammed Takata for information misrepresentation and manipulation about possible airbag defects.