Carmakers still supporting Takata amid airbag recall controversy

Article by Andrew Christian, on November 21, 2014

Takata Corp. still has the support of carmaker-customers even while it faces deepening probe in the United States over faulty tied to at least five deaths. Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific Inc., remarked that carmakers like Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have collaborated with Takata on new car features over several years that it has become difficult, if not impossible, to shift right away to alternative suppliers.

For instance, the new Edge crossover comes with a steering system co-developed with Takata. Even Executive Chairman Bill Ford recently said that the carmaker’s relationship with Takata remains intact. Ford announced in May that a new system -- Adaptive Steering -- would be fitted into models within 12 months and would be available on the 2015 Edge.

Adaptive Steering uses a motor and gearing in the steering wheel to assist in turns, making it easier to maneuver at slow speeds and smoother to drive on the highway. Sullivan remarked that Takata’s product breadth has made it hard to the carmaker “just disappear.”

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently called for the airbag recalls -- which has already covered involved over 10 million cars in the past six years – to include locations beyond high-humidity areas.

Alby Berman, a Takata spokesman, wrote in an e-mail that nationwide recall may place “lives at risk” as it diverts replacement parts from “where they’re needed.” So far, around 16 million vehicles fitted with the airbags have been recalled globally.

Takata has received a subpoena from a federal grand jury asking for documents and explanations for the defects. An official from Takata was bound to testify before the US Senate this week.

Airbags accounted for 39 percent of Takata’s business in the previous fiscal year ending March 2014, at JPY220 billion ($1.9 billion). Seat belts accounted for about a third at JPY178 billion.

Takata also manufactures other products like steering wheels as well as advanced sensors that detect when a vehicle is veering across lanes or heading for a collision.

Topics: takata, airbag, recall

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