Takata to double output of replacement air bags

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

Embattled auto parts manufacturer Takata said Monday it will double its production of replacement air bags in the next six months in response to a massive global safety recall.

Takata, under fire from safety regulators over defective air bags linked to at least five fatalities, said it increased production of air bag replacement kits from 350,000 per month in December to 450,000 per month currently. Output will hit 900,000 in September.

“Takata has dramatically increased the production of air bag replacement kits in support of automotive recalls and safety campaigns,” the company said.

“Takata also is working with other suppliers to further increase the availability of replacement kits for its automotive customers.”

About 20 million vehicles produced by some of the world’s biggest automakers are being recalled due to the risk their Takata-made air bags could deploy with excessive explosive power, spraying potentially fatal shrapnel into the vehicle.

The problem has been linked to at least five deaths globally, with a sixth death under investigation.

Takata said it was convening a meeting in Michigan this week with engineers from its automaker customers to go over preliminary research on the root cause of the air bag problem.

The company said preliminary testing supports its contention that age and long-term exposure to high-heat, high-humidity climates were key factors in the accidents.

U.S. safety regulators late last month began fining Takata $14,000 a day for allegedly stonewalling an investigation into the air bags. Takata disputed the charge and said it was “fully committed” to assisting regulators.

In a related move, Honda Motor Co. voiced its support on Monday for legislation introduced the same day by two U.S. senators that would require car owners to resolve any outstanding issues related to the safety recalls before a vehicle could be legally registered.

“Our goal is to achieve a 100 percent repair rate for every recall in order to prevent injuries and save lives, and this legislation will help achieve that,” Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda’s American unit said in a press release, citing the fact that approximately one third of recalled cars in the U.S. are never repaired.

The proposed law was introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey, who said it is a response to the recall of about 64 million cars in the U.S. in 2014, including those containing faulty air bags made by Takata.

The Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives (RECALL) Act would also require state motor vehicle registration agencies to notify car owners of outstanding recalls on their car for new registrations or renewing license plates.

States would have to enforce the RECALL Act or risk the federal government withholding valuable highway safety funds.

“This legislation provides a common-sense avenue to ensure every driver is reminded and encouraged to make the necessary repairs and keep unsafe cars off the roads,” Blumenthal said in a press release.