Takata and Japan automakers edgy partnership

Safety hazards caused by faulty airbag manufacturing hike automobile recalls

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Tension continues to rise between Japanese carmakers and airbag manufacturer Takata Corp as potentially deadly vehicles are called off the shelf. Thus, being locked into a binding agreement and costly court battles keep the business partnership rolling. 

Defective vehicle parts have created a new wave of recalls which has been identified as the largest. Over the last 5 years, close to 36 million vehicles equipped with faulty Takata airbags have been called off. This in turn sparked a criminal investigation and lawsuits on testing ties between Takata and main consumers.

Honda, who is currently Takata’s largest customer, has been hit the hardest by recalls as they announced on Thursday that 19.6 million vehicles have been called back due to malfunctioning airbags.

Rivals, Toyota and Nissan have also joined Honda, who has recently recalled an additional 4.89 million automobiles from around the world. 

Toyota has taken 8.1 million vehicles off the shelf due to Takata related problems while Nissan recalls have mounted to 4 million. 

According to investigations, a common problem faced by carmakers were unsealed inflators, which could potentially lead to the component exploding due to extreme pressure. 

Honda has recently opted for Takata's rival, Daicel Corp as Sho Minekawa, Honda senior managing director announced that the newly released shuttle wagon sold in Japan will only use Daicel fitted airbags. 

Takata has put aside $520 million to cover recall costs and supply replacement parts for urgent repairs nevertheless, compensation nor court battle is demanded. A banker who has been in contact with Takata noted any legal action could fire back at automakers for not reviewing Takata’s layout or insisting on cutting costs.

"The most important thing from the perspective of the automakers is that they can ensure replacement parts are being supplied in a stable fashion," said Masaki Higurashi, deputy director of the automobile division at Japan's trade ministry who also coordinates the government monitoring of the recall wave.

Conversely, the increasingly strained relationship between both Japanese automakers and Takata have not been settled as they failed to agree on Takata’s responsibility for the recalls. 

An investigation on the cause of airbag failures is a priority on the current agenda rather than costs. Therefore, an agreement on how costs will be divided by both parties has not been laid out, said representatives of Takata and the automakers. 

A total of six deaths in Honda vehicles have been caused by a defect in Takata air bags. An additional 100 injuries have also been reported. 

TRTWorld and agencies