Takata seeks automaker aid, eyes airbag deal with Daicel, reports say

TOKYO (Reuters) — Airbag supplier Takata Corp. plans to request financial support from Japanese automakers and is laying the groundwork for top officials to resign over the recall of millions of vehicles with potentially faulty airbags, sources told Reuters.

Takata is also looking to team up with competitor Daicel Corp. to produce airbag inflators, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Saturday, as the embattled auto parts maker struggles to supply replacement parts for the millions of vehicles recalled worldwide.

Daicel, which already supplies Takata, said on Saturday that it had not been approached about any new tie-ups after Japanese media reported that Takata may form a joint venture with Daicel to produce airbag components.

“We are discussing ways to work with Takata to supply safe (airbag) inflators, although we have not decided on any details,” a Daicel spokesman said. Takata declined to comment on the reports.

U.S. transport authorities on Friday announced a new recall of around 5 million vehicles following the latest death caused by Takata’s airbag inflators, which can explode with excessive force and spray metal shrapnel inside vehicles.

Faulty airbags have resulted in 10 fatalities, all but one of them in the United States, and around 100 injuries. The fatality reported on Friday was in a Ford Ranger pickup — the first fatality from an automaker other than Honda Motor Co.

As the number of recalled vehicles approaches 50 million, Takata would be required to foot the bill for recalls if it is found to be responsible for the faulty inflators.

Industry experts have estimated the cost of replacing each airbag at around $100 per vehicle.

Takata also faces a U.S. investigation and class action lawsuits over its exploding airbags. Sources said it will ask for aid, including support over pricing from its automaker customers, next week when it explains the results of an inquiry into the cause of its defective inflators.

As part of its request for support, separate sources said Takata is making preparations for the resignation of the company’s top brass.

Company officials, including Shigehisa Takada, the president and the grandson of the company’s founder, has been widely criticized for his handling of the problem, after being slow to make any public statements regarding the recall.

Automakers in Japan and the U.S. have been dumping Takata as their supplier of inflators and have been hesitant to extend financial support to Takata so far.

Honda has said the supplier misrepresented and manipulated information about possible air bag defects. Honda is Takata’s top customer and has recalled the most cars because of faulty airbags.

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