Toyota changes airbags supplier
Tokyo –– Toyota is to buy millions of airbags from an alternative supplier to reduce its risk from potentially lethal air-bag inflators supplied by Takata.
It has asked component supplier Nippon kayaku to increase production so it can supply more than 13 million inflators from next July until 2020
The move is the most proactive yet by manufacturers affected by the world’s biggest automotive recall, which has prompted more than 10 automakers to recall tens of millions of vehicles since 2008 to replace Takata airbags.
Takata airbag inflators have been linked to eight deaths and more than 100 injuries after exploding with excessive force, spraying shrapnel inside vehicles. Automakers are bearing the cost of most recalls while the root cause is investigated.
Lawmakers in the United States have urged Takata to recall immediately all cars equipped with the company’s airbags, a demand that could affect more than 50 million cars on US roads.
Toyota has based the quantity to be bought from Nippon kayaku on the number of vehicles with Takata-made inflators it thinks could become dangerous as the cars age over the next few years.
If Toyota switches to Nippon kayaku inflators, it “will replace the high-risk ones, in other words the older ones, first and then
proceed sequentially” to newer inflators.
Precautionary switch Takata has said long-term exposure to heat and high humidity can make its airbags deploy too forcefully. All the vehicles recalled so far are at least five years old.
Toyota, which vies with Volkswagen as the world’s biggest carmaker, is a pioneer of lean manufacturing and keeps minimal inventory to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
So far it has recalled more than 12 million vehicles with Takata-made airbag inflators and apparently considers a switch to Nippon Kayaku inflators as a precaution in case further recalls are required.
After being criticised for acting too slowly on its accelerator-pedal recall crisis ive years ago, Toyota wants to be able to replace at-risk inflators promptly if it needs to.
The move doesn’t mean Toyota will stop buying Takata inflators.
Research institute head Takaki nakanishi said: “Toyota wouldn’t want its business with Takata to disappear - it’s trying to maintain business and reduce risk.
“As for Takata, even if its inflator business shrinks, it can certainly still survive as an airbag maker if it buys inflators from other companies.”
Takata uses inflators made by Daicel as well as its own –– and this has increased since the recall began. –– Reuters
Takata-made airbags are believed to have caused eight deaths.