Takata Forms Quality Control Group Amid Air Bag Crisis

27 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Air Bag Recall Investigation.

Takata Corp. (7312) said it will form a global quality control committee in response to an auto-safety crisis created by flaws in its air bags. TOKYO — The emerging crisis over air bags traces back to a little-known Japanese company that for over 20 years has supplied the safety devices to automakers including Toyota, Honda and General Motors.

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) – The past two years have seen nearly 8 Million vehicles recalled over safety issues in the United States and Nissan says it is not over yet.Airbags have been designed to save lives – but as recent recalls show, one company could unfortunately have produced airbags that do the exact opposite – causing harm and even loss of lives.Takata, a Japanese manufacturer and supplier of automotive safety components, could book a quarterly charge of up to three billion yen ($28 million) to cover the cost of additional recalls of vehicles that may have been fitted with defective air bags made by the company, a report said Monday.The chief executive officer of the Renault – Nissan alliance is warning buyers that auto recalls would increase their number as the producers try to address quickly any quality issue to keep owners happy.

Although it’s four years than Toyota – Takata Corp has come to widespread attention in recent years when a string of recalls for products made in its factories started. The ignition switch debacle surrounding General Motors and the mounting scandal with Takata Corp’s airbag inflators is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Ghosn, as carmakers are now working even harder to keep customers and they would move to swiftly resolve any issues. “Everybody is particularly focused on the fact that they are fighting so hard to get the consumer for their brand, so they don’t want to lose him for a quality problem,” said Ghosn in a recent interview.

The CEO also added that automakers are now issuing recalls even without hard evidence for minor problems, avoiding the potential embarrassment and skipping the fuss surrounding quality problems. But since 2008, millions of vehicles have been called back because the airbags had potentially defective inflators that would send shrapnel and metal debris flying through the cabin at high velocity. Ghosn has made the comments as president of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association and claims that recalls are now an “industry concern.” The executive talked about recalls as the situation with General Motors is just cooling down, making way to the Takata airbag inflator recall – which involves many automakers, including his Japanese part of the alliance – Nissan.

The statement, first posted today, is no longer available on Takata’s website and spokesmen for the Tokyo-based company didn’t immediately return phone calls or respond to e-mails seeking further details. The Japanese parts maker four years older than Toyota also has said it dealt with lapses in quality control at its plant in Mexico. “No other supplier other than Takata has used this ammonium nitrate,” said Jochen Siebert, Shanghai-based managing director of JSC Automotive Consulting, which advises automakers and parts suppliers. “You could build air bags that were smaller and lighter. Let us be honest, at this point, they must be embarrassed that they have not been able to catch in time problems with these airbag issues , with gm’s ignition switches, which the company knew about more than a decade ago, so when you have these problems with safety issues and cars and it results in deaths, and it affects the u.s. market and the regulator looks like they’ve really missed it, and it has been a problem for many years, the problem is going to be intensified. According to Reuters, the additional charge could be part of a broader estimate for a global recall, which began in 2008, and has so far included more than 16 million vehicles. You have a regulator in the u.s. really stepping up efforts, even the obama administration weighing in as to whether or not it is living up to its role, so this is just an issue that is snowballing and g hoen has every reason to believe that there is another recall on the horizon.

These airbags are made by Takata industries, the problem being that the air bags can explode too strongly, sending shrapnel through the bags and into the air. The Takata produced airbags have been linked so far to four deaths and more than 30 injuries in America, where a NHTSA investigation is now in full swing. The vehicles from 10 manufacturers have been recalled because in high humidity regions they could easily break down and malfunction in the event of an accident. US federal probes are still ongoing, but many industry experts think they would focus on Takata’s decision to use an unusual explosive as the chemical that needs to inflate the airbag in mere milliseconds.

The unfolding crisis marks a fall from grace for a Tokyo- based company that rode Japan’s postwar industrialization to became a global powerhouse in seat belts that saved lives. Having now been responsible for making some vehicles more dangerous, Takata’s failures add to growing doubts about auto safety and how well motorists are protected by regulators. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also called for an overhaul of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, on ABC’s “This Week” program on Saturday. “There needs to be a real overhaul of the National Highway Transit Safety agency,” Blumenthal said on the show. “These exploding airbags can be killers… They literally have killed people.” In the late 1990s, Takata made ammonium nitrate the chemical-of-choice for its air-bag inflator design, said Siebert, who was advising for the air bag market in Europe at the time.

Ammonium nitrate’s weakness lies in its sensitivity to moisture, which makes the propellant unstable, said Scott Upham, president of Valient Market Research, who has followed air bags since they were first going into cars a quarter-century ago. In 2005, Takata closed a Georgia plant that made inflators and shifted production to the Mexico factory, about 300 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas. The factory resumed full operations within a month, and Takata’s customers managed to avoid production disruptions, a feat that Automotive News called “remarkable” in August 2006.

The go-ahead within Honda came in 1986, when Kobayashi convinced then-President Tadashi Kume that air bags, with their “one-in-a-million” defect rates, would enhance the automaker’s reliability, Kobayashi wrote. Kobayashi, now a guest professor at Japan’s Chuo University, declined to be interviewed, writing in an email that he’s not in a position to comment on the current crisis after being out of the industry for more than 10 years. Honda spokeswoman Akemi Ando said she would check on Kobayashi’s account of the company’s history and said the automaker doesn’t approve new technology unless it’s safe. Going forward, the task of protecting the legacy of his family’s 81-year-old dynasty falls to Shigehisa Takada, grandson of Takezo and son of Juichiro, who died in Tokyo in February 2011 at the age of 74. I think Takata’s management may have underestimated the fallout.” With assistance from Rawnna Low in Hong Kong; Jeff Green in Southfield, Mich.; Masatsugu Horie in Osaka, Japan; Hideki Asai in Tokyo and Jeff Plungis in Washington

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