Takata CEO says internal probe into failing airbags not progressing well

Thu Jun 25, 2015 2:53pm EDT
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By Chang-Ran Kim and Maki Shiraki

TOKYO (Reuters) - The head of Japan's Takata Corp said an internal probe into its potentially deadly air bag inflators was not progressing well, but vowed to stay at the helm until trust in the safety of its products was restored.

Facing the media for the first time since the company's recall crisis erupted over a year ago, Chief Executive Shigehisa Takada apologized for the defective inflators, which have been linked to eight deaths and more than 100 injuries.

The lack of progress in finding out why some of its inflators can deploy with too much force and spray metal shards is set to turn up the pressure on Takata as carmakers continue to expand a recall that is already the biggest in automotive history.

U.S. lawmakers this week also raised the possibility that the company put profits before safety by halting global safety audits. Takata has disputed the accusation.

"The analysis isn't progressing very well," Takada told a news conference that followed the company's annual general meeting. "I'm concerned about that."

He said, however, that Takata would continue to use ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical, as an air bag propellant, stressing that third-party investigations it commissioned have vouched for its safety.

Since the crisis began, tens of millions of vehicles have been recalled worldwide and multiple investigations are underway including those commissioned collectively by 10 automakers as well as Takata's own probe. Its shares have plunged 38 percent since last June when U.S. authorities opened their investigation.

Often glancing down to read from a prepared text and sometimes mumbling, Takada, 49, said he intended to continue leading the company founded by his grandfather, saying that was the appropriate way for him to take responsibility.   Continued...

A recalled Takata airbag inflator is shown after it was removed at the AutoNation Honda dealership service department in Miami, Florida June 25, 2015.   REUTERS/Joe Skipper