Exclusive: Takata CEO called to explain air bag crisis to Japan's industry ministry - sources

Wed Dec 3, 2014 9:55am EST
 
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By Norihiko Shirouzu

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's powerful industry ministry has summoned Shigehisa Takada, chairman and CEO of Takata Corp, to explain what the company is doing to resolve a crisis over potentially deadly air bags, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Takada, 48, the third-generation head of the Tokyo-based auto safety equipment maker, is expected to attend talks at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) with senior officials, including director-general Atsuo Kuroda, as early as Monday afternoon, one of the knowledgeable people said.

It's not clear what specific information the ministry is seeking to gain. Kuroda heads the ministry's manufacturing industries bureau.

More than 16 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide since 2008 to replace Takata air bag inflators, which can explode with too much force and shoot metal fragments into the car. At least five deaths have been linked to the defect, all in Honda Motor Co cars.

Another Takata executive is due to appear before a second U.S. congressional hearing later on Wednesday to explain how its air bags become potentially lethal. A first hearing took place on Nov. 21.

Takada last appeared publicly at a closed-to-the-media shareholders' meeting nearly six months ago, where he apologised for the air bag problems. In a statement issued on Tuesday, he acknowledged the company "can and must do more."

Takata spokesman Toyohiro Hishikawa said he was not immediately able to confirm whether Takada had been called in by the ministry. A METI spokesman said he had no immediate comment.

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Displays of Takata Corp are pictured at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai