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Takata under pressure to complete airbag recall despite declaring bankruptcy

A Takata Corp. plant is seen in Aisho, Shiga Prefecture, is seen on June 26, 2017. (Mainichi)

Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has come under mounting pressure to swiftly complete the recall and repair of defective airbags and take measures to prevent a recurrence even though it has declared bankruptcy.

Takata's failure comes about eight and a half years after its first recalls in November 2008 following the rupture of one of its products. However, its recalls and repairs of defective products are only half completed and concerns about further accidents persist.

Takata was founded in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, in 1933 as a textile manufacturer. The company began producing seat belts in 1960 by taking advantage of its textile technology, and also launched its airbag production in 1980.

The firm developed into a major seat belt and airbag manufacturer, at one stage having about a 20 percent share of the world market for both products. By improving its technology of ensuring car safety, Takata has supported the growth of the automobile industry.

The abnormal ruptures of Takata-made airbags began to occur in the first half of the 2000s.

The first fatal accident related to a Takata airbag took place in the United States in 2009, the year after Honda Motor Co. began its first recall of vehicles with Takata airbags.

It was not until 2014 that Takata started taking serious measures and set up an independent investigative panel to look into its manufacturing process as the company came under fire for failing to clarify the cause of repeated abnormal ruptures of its airbags. The company deserves criticism of its slow response to the accidents.

Takata took advantage of its unique technology of producing airbags using ammonium nitrate, a material used in gunpowder, to jointly develop airbags with Honda and other automakers, thereby steadily increasing sales of such products.

However, accidents continued to occur and the financial burden of recalling defective products snowballed while the company and automakers kept placing the blame on each other over the airbag defects and Takata failed to agree on ways to rehabilitate itself.

Takata has been required to recall 18.82 million vehicles in Japan alone to repair their airbags, but has completed work on only 73 percent of the vehicles due to a shortage of parts and other factors. The recall ratio in the United States is believed to be even lower.

If Takata and automakers had cooperated in improving concerned airbag parts and increasing its production of relevant parts shortly after noticing the defects, the damage caused by its defective airbags might have been limited to minimal levels.

Apart from Takata, the automobile industry as a whole should work on the global airbag recall and take effective measures to prevent a recurrence.

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