Shareholders of Takata Corp. expressed disappointment and anger Tuesday over how the air bag maker’s top management has handled its product safety fiasco.
Hiroshige Kono, 75, of Kawasaki, who came to a shareholders meeting in Tokyo the day after the company filed for bankruptcy protection under the Civil Rehabilitation Law, said it was a “mistake” for him to have invested in Takata.
“I thought Takata would be OK as it is one of the top-three global air bag makers. I thought the company would never fall,” said Kono, who bought shares in Takata three years ago. “I’m ashamed of having Takata stock out of my greed. I now feel frustrated with myself.”
Kono criticized Chairman and CEO Shigehisa Takada for staying out of the public spotlight to “avoid taking criticism” over the recall scandal. “It doesn’t help if he just tried to flee and hide from criticism,” he said.
A third-party investigation revealed inflators used for Takata’s air bags can explode with excessive force and blow a metal canister apart when exposed to heat and high humidity for a long time. The defective air bags have reportedly been linked to at least 17 deaths worldwide.
Takada appeared at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday for the first time since November 2015, and apologized to stakeholders for the firm’s decision to pursue the court-led bankruptcy after experiencing massive recall costs. But why defective air bags were produced, and also passed the company’s harsh quality tests, remains “inexplicable,” he said.
“I think he failed to apologize at an appropriate time, while many people were losing their lives” because of Takata’s faulty air bags, Kono said. “As a shareholder, I can’t forgive his attitude; to run away from criticism.”
Another shareholder from Kawasaki, aged 36, who declined to be named, said domestic automakers should also be blamed for the global recall.
“I think automakers are trying to end the problem with the fall of Takata. But I believe they are also responsible” for providing clarification on the issue, he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recalls affect 42 million U.S. vehicles with nearly 70 million air bag inflators. It is estimated that more than 100 million defective inflators are to be replaced worldwide.
The shareholder also said he had mixed feelings over Takata’s current struggles, given that while its faulty air bags have killed people, the company’s safety equipment has also saved many lives in car accidents.
“I hope Takata managers will work to turn its fortunes around and do better for society,” he said.
Meanwhile, Takata’s proposal to reappoint its six current board members, including Takada, was approved by shareholders. The Takada family effectively holds the voting rights for the company, owning about 60 percent of outstanding shares.
Takada said Monday he will step down “at an appropriate time” — presumably after all parties formally agree to the rehabilitation plan and all of Takata’s operations are transferred to Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems Inc.
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