Takata air bag crisis hands Autoliv chance to go big in Japan

Tue Nov 10, 2015 5:04pm EST
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By Johannes Hellstrom

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish car safety equipment maker Autoliv (ALV.N: Quote) could capitalize on the crisis engulfing its rival Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) by finally extending its global leadership to the one major auto hub it has been unable to dominate - Japan.

Autoliv is the world's top maker of equipment such as air bags and seat belts, but it has struggled to break the ties between Japanese carmakers and main supplier Takata in a country where the "keiretsu" corporate culture sees businesses closely bound together in relationships cultivated over decades.

The ground has shifted, however; a string of Japanese carmakers have ditched Takata's air bag inflators in recent days after U.S. regulators said they used a chemical that they suspect causes the bag to explode with too much force, spraying metal shards into the car.

Takata is the only supplier to use the volatile chemical - ammonium nitrate - in its inflators, which have been linked to eight deaths and have led to the recall of more than 40 million cars worldwide.

Its rejection by carmakers including its main customer Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) and Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote), could reshape the auto safety business in Japan, where it has been the biggest player for years.

"What is sensational here is that Honda, where Takata has been the supplier par excellence, is saying they won't buy (inflators) from Takata in future," said a source with decades of experience in the car safety industry.

"These are two companies that have grown up together, it would be like Volvo saying this to Autoliv."

The Swedish company is already on the move.   Continued...

A logo of Takata Corp is seen with its display as people are reflected in a window at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo, Japan November 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Toru Hanai  -