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Takata Corp. is considering bankruptcy protection for its U.S. unit, among other options, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The Tokyo-based firm’s defective air bag inflators have led to the biggest recall in auto industry history.

The company hired Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP to help weigh options that could include bankruptcy or a sale, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The air bag maker said no decision has been made.

The Japanese manufacturer may choose to seek court protection just for its U.S. unit, said the person, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. No final decisions have been made and Takata continues to seek buyers, the people said. Takata said its biggest commitment now is providing stable supply of products and its talks with related parties about various options are ongoing.

Takata is evaluating at least five bids as it confronts the potentially massive cost of recalling faulty air bag inflators that could exceed 100 million worldwide, as well as lawsuits tied to at least 16 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Its air bag propellant can degrade over time and lead inflators to rupture, sending shrapnel through the vehicle’s cabin.

The company hired Lazard Ltd. earlier this year as its financial adviser to pursue strategic options including a sale. All of the suitors have proposed bankruptcy proceedings as one option for Takata, with air bag makers Autoliv Inc. and Key Safety Systems Inc. insisting on that in their bids, a person familiar with the process said last month. Additional offers came from Daicel Corp. and Bain Capital LP, and from buyout firm KKR & Co. and bumper supplier Flex-N-Gate Corp.

Takata’s customers, which include Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG, are tied to the outcome because they could face partial responsibility for billions of dollars in recall costs and potential legal liabilities. Automakers have been reluctant to help pay Takata’s legal bills, but they also want to ensure a steady supply of air bags, seat belts and other components.

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