Takata tightens screws on suppliers as air bag crisis mounts: sources

Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:36am EST
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By Antoni Slodkowski

TOKYO (Reuters) - Takata Corp. (7312.T: Quote) has begun enforcing tighter quality controls on a group of parts suppliers as the auto safety equipment maker boosts production to replace millions of air bags recalled for a potentially deadly defect, according to people involved.

Takata, whose exploding air bags have caused five deaths and a recall of more than 20 million vehicles globally, has come under investigation by U.S. safety regulators and federal prosecutors and intense scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers.

Over the last two months, the company has launched a series of "urgent" inspections across its supply network and dispatched managers to parts makers in Japan and Asia to announce the changes, according to those involved, who asked not to be identified.

At one closed-door meeting in Japan between Takata executives and over 100 of its suppliers in mid-October, Takata said its representatives would inspect 40 suppliers of key parts before the end of the year and audit the remainder of the firms in 2015, one of those involved said.

"Takata has become extremely strict when it comes to quality control now," said one of the people who was present at the meeting.

Suppliers said the way the inspections were carried out did not differ much from regular quality checks made by Takata, but they highlighted the speed and the unusual sense of urgency with which they have been announced.

"This time it was different. This inspection had not been planned before and was announced out of the blue during the meeting," said the person involved. "They came to my factory within one, two weeks from setting the date," said the person.

Takata spokesman Toyohiro Hishikawa declined to comment on the company's dealings with its suppliers.   Continued...

Takata Corp's company plate is seen at an entrance of the building where Takata Corp headquarters is located at in Tokyo December 9, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino