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August 25, 2015

JAPAN [updated]: Toyota testing other suppliers’ airbag inflators – report

Toyota Motor on Tuesday confirmed it was testing airbag inflators made by Autoliv and Nippon Kayaku as possible alternatives to potentially lethal parts supplied by Takata, a media report said.

Toyota Motor on Tuesday confirmed it was testing airbag inflators made by Autoliv and Nippon Kayaku as possible alternatives to potentially lethal parts supplied by Takata, a media report said.

A Toyota spokeswoman told Reuters the company wanted to ensure the parts were compatible with its vehicles before using them.

Reuters had week reported earlier Toyota would buy 13m inflators from Nippon Kayaku to reduce its risk from Takata’s airbags, which are at the centre of the biggest global vehicle recall for decades.

“(Inflators) are not like stationery, which can be simply swapped. We need to test them first and make sure they’re safe,” the spokeswoman told the news agency.

Autoliv already supplies parts to Honda.

Nippon Kayaku declined to comment to Reuters.

Toyota already uses inflators by Daicel which it has determined to be safe, the report said.

Unnamed sources had previously told Reuters the automaker, in a bid to reduce its risk from potentially lethal airbag inflators supplied by Takata, would instead buy millions from tier two parts maker Nippon Kayaku.

Sources told the news agency the carmaker asked the supplier last month to increase production so it could supply over 13m inflators from next July until 2020.

The report said the move was the most proactive yet by manufacturers affected by the world’s biggest automotive recall, which has prompted more than 10 automakers to recall tens of millions of vehicles since 2008 to replace Takata air bags.

Toyota based the amount of Nippon Kayaku purchases on the number of vehicles with Takata made inflators it thought could become dangerous as the cars age over the next few years, the Reuters sources said.

If Toyota switches to Nippon Kayaku inflators, it “will replace the high-risk ones, in other words the older ones, first and then proceed sequentially” to newer inflators, one source told the news agency.

Takata has said long term exposure to heat and high humidity can make its air bags deploy too forcefully. All the vehicles recalled so far are at least five years old.

Toyota asked Nippon Kayaku, a century old company that also manufactures chemicals and pharmaceuticals, to expand its production facilities to meet the demand, the Reuters sources said.

The sources declined to say how much the purchases would cost Toyota but Reuters said average inflator prices suggested a total of around US$100m-$150m.

A source said Toyota considered a switch to Nippon Kayaku inflators a precaution in case further recalls are required.

Toyota has so far recalled over 12m vehicles with Takata inflators, the report added.

After being criticised for acting too slowly on a separate major recall crisis of its own five years ago, Toyota wants to be able to replace at risk inflators promptly if it needs to, the Reuters sources said.

The move does not mean Toyota will stop buying Takata inflators, one of the individuals said. Toyota “won’t do anything to crush Takata”, he added.

“Toyota wouldn’t want its business with Takata to disappear … This is a strategy where it’s trying to maintain business and reduce risk,” Takaki Nakanishi, chief executive of Nakanishi Research Institute, which specialises in the automotive industry, told the news agency.

“As for Takata, even if its inflator business shrinks, it can certainly still survive as an airbag maker if it buys inflators from other companies,” he added.

Takata uses inflators made by supplier Daicel, as well as its own, and this has increased with the demand for replacements since the recall.

One Reuters source would not say whether Toyota is helping Nippon Kayaku pay for its expansion, or whether Toyota would keep buying its inflators after 2020.

Honda has helped Daicel finance a production increase to meet demand for replacement air bags, a separate Reuters source said.

Autoliv reportedly has also boosted production of replacement inflators at automakers’ requests.

Takata airbag recall coverage here

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