Takata taps former U.S. transport chiefs in air bag safety crisis

Tue Dec 2, 2014 3:22pm EST
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By Ben Klayman and Paul Lienert

DETROIT (Reuters) - Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) said on Tuesday it had recruited three former U.S. transportation secretaries to help the Japanese air bag supplier navigate a growing auto safety crisis.

Takata said it was forming an independent quality panel headed by former White House Chief of Staff and U.S. Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner. It also appointed two other former U.S. transportation secretaries, Rodney Slater and Norman Mineta, as special counsel as it struggles to handle a series of recalls.

The quality panel will audit and report on the company's manufacturing processes, which have been called into question after several deaths and serious injuries linked to air bags deploying with too much force and spraying vehicle occupants with metal shrapnel. It will make the report public.

Chief Executive Officer Shigehisa Takada said his company would take "dramatic actions" to increase output of the replacement air bag inflator kits needed as part of the recalls. That includes working with rivals and examining whether their products can be used safely, he said.

"I know we can and must do more," he said in a Tuesday statement.

Takata will look to boost production at its factories in Asia and Europe as well as its Monclova, Mexico, plant. The company said it was increasing monthly output of the replacement kits to at least 450,000 in January from about 350,000 now.

Takata executives would not say whether the company supports calls by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to expand an initial regional recall of driver-side air bags to all 50 states.

Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata's senior vice president for global quality assurance, said in testimony ahead of a U.S. congressional hearing on Wednesday that any broader recall should be phased in to give priority to U.S. regions with higher humidity.   Continued...

A billboard advertisement of Takata Corp is pictured in Tokyo in this September 17, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files