Exclusive: GM develops contingency plans in case Takata recalls widen

Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:21pm EST
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By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) has developed contingency plans in case recalls of potentially lethal Takata-made air bag inflators widens, forcing the U.S. automaker to repair millions of vehicles, the company said on Friday.

More than 21 million vehicles have been recalled globally by numerous automakers since 2008 because of defective Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) inflators that could rupture and shoot metal shards into the vehicle and have been linked to at least five deaths.

GM's plans include directing Takata to share with rivals TRW TRW.N and Autoliv (ALV.N: Quote) the No. 1 U.S. automaker's air bag specifications and data so any replacement parts made by others would work in GM vehicles, GM spokesman James Cain told Reuters in response to questions about the company's plans. This approach secures future capacity if it is necessary, he said.

"Basically, we bought an insurance policy so that the capacity is there if we need it," Cain said. "We don't want to be caught short-handed.

"There is only so much inflator capacity in the industry and we need to be prepared, so what we've done is prudent," he added.

While Takata has not determined what is causing the problems in its air bags involved in recalls in U.S. regions of high humidity, the company has said one factor is the aging of the inflators. That has many automakers concerned that inflators of similar design in their vehicles could face recall at a later date.

Takata said in a statement: “Takata cannot confirm or comment on discussions with particular customers. As our chairman has stated, Takata is increasing its production of replacement units and is committed to working with its customers and other air bag manufacturers to increase production capacity even further.”

Officials with Autoliv and TRW could not immediately be reached to comment.   Continued...

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this file photograph taken August 25, 2009.  REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files