Lack of Air Bag Replacement Parts to Prolong Takata Recall

By Ben Klayman | May 21, 2015

Takata Corp’s record U.S. recall of potentially deadly air bag inflators could take years to complete, industry experts and safety advocates said, as automakers scrambled to line up replacement parts, some not from Takata.

After doubling its recall of defective air bags to nearly 34 million vehicles, the Japanese company and competitors scrambled to ramp up production of replacement parts.

The complexity of the recall could play out over at least two years, said Kevin Pollack, vice president for Stericycle ExpertSolutions, which is helping some of the affected automakers. “There weren’t 30 million extra air bag inflators sitting around.”

A Takata spokesman said the company would raise output to 1 million inflators a month by September, an increase of 100,000 parts from the previous forecast and up from the current monthly level of 500,000.

Mark Rosekind, an administrator for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said completing the recall could take “some years.”

Takata and the NHTSA, which has hired independent research group Battelle to uncover the technical cause of the problem, said the priority for the replacement parts would be older vehicles and those in higher-humidity regions.

The air bag inflators have been found to explode with too much force, spraying metal fragments inside cars and forcing automakers to recall more than 53 million vehicles worldwide since 2008. The component has been linked to six deaths, all in cars made by the supplier’s top customer, Honda Motor Co.

Takata and its customers will determine who receives the replacement parts, in a process being overseen by the NHTSA.

Jack Gillis of consumer advocacy group Consumer Federation of America believes the recall could take up to five years to resolve.

Takata shares declined 10.2 percent to 1,353 yen in Tokyo on

Wednesday, a day after the company announced the largest automotive recall in U.S. history.

The Takata spokesman said the company had so far made 3.8 million replacement kits in total.

Takata has faced pressure from U.S. safety regulators, lawmakers and its automaker customers to increase production of the replacement parts. Several automakers have turned to other suppliers in the sector to meet demand.

Contingency Plans

General Motors said last December that it had developed contingency plans to deal with a potential shortage of replacement parts, directing Takata to share inflator specifications with rivals Autoliv and TRW. A GM spokesman said on Wednesday there was no update to those plans.

Autoliv said on Wednesday it was ready to boost production capacity to meet increased demand for replacement inflators.

The Swedish company said in January it was targeting additional production capacity of up to 25 million air bag inflators for delivery in 2015 and 2016.

Autoliv spokesman Thomas Jonsson said Wednesday the company is building replacement inflators for Honda and several other unidentified automakers, but he had no time frame for when the industry would meet the demand.

Honda spokesman Chris Martin said the company was also using Japan’s Daicel Corp. and TRW for replacement inflators. TRW was recently acquired by Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen.

“We absolutely have back orders on inflators,” he said. “Some people may wait a couple days, some people may wait a few weeks.”

Daicel said in February it would build a second U.S. plant for air bag inflators in early 2016, bringing forward plans partly to meet demand for alternatives to Takata’s inflators. It said the previous month it would boost output of replacement inflators in Japan.

A Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman said on Wednesday the company is working with Takata for most replacement inflators, but will use Daicel for some parts.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd said it would not comment on supplier selection or potential negotiations. Ford Motor Co. has previously said it has spoken with Takata rivals about buying replacement parts.

Not everyone may be disappointed with the expanded recall. Consumer advocate Gillis said dealers would see a “gold mine” with increased visits to their repair bays and a possible boost in new car sales as a result.

(Additional reporting by David Morgan in Washington; Writing by Christian Plumb; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Toni Reinhold)

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