Takata Corporation has said it was considering a drastic review of its inflator division and the sale of non-core businesses – its first restructuring steps since becoming embroiled in a global recall crisis over potentially deadly airbags.
The announcement came as the auto parts maker booked its third annual loss in four years on an increase in recall costs, Reuters reported. It forecast a return to profit this financial year but added that recall costs had not been factored in because the root cause of the defect had not been determined.
Takata air bag inflators can inflate violently, releasing metal shrapnel into the vehicle and have been blamed for 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries, mainly in the United States, Reuters noted.
The question of just how much Takata would have to pay in recall costs has been hanging heavily over the firm with management saying that can only be worked out when there is clarity on the root cause of the problem.
"Once we determine the cause of the airbag defect, then we'll discuss costs with automakers," chief financial officer Yoichiro Nomura said at a briefing, adding an investigation it has commissioned is set to come to a conclusion in the summer.
Reuters noted the company's woes only worsened last week with US transport authorities announcing a recall of up to 40 million more of the company's air bags, on top of the more than 50 million that have already been recalled globally.
Takata's recall costs have so far been comparatively small as automakers have borne most of the burden but it is widely expected to shoulder much more, Reuters said. If Takata was found to be solely responsible for the problem, it could face a bill of more than $9bn in recall costs, based on a rough calculation that each replacement kit costs around US$100. It also faces US lawsuits.
The company, however, sought to reassure shareholders saying in a note on its earnings statement that while the recalls were creating uncertainty, it did not believe that worries over it as a going concern were warranted. It cited increases in revenue and operating profit, the absence of funding concerns and the steps it was taking to address the problem.
Takata said it had appointed a team of five experts to help with its restructuring plan which it hopes to have in place by autumn. Talks with rival Daicel about a tie-up to produce airbag inflators are ongoing but nothing has been decided yet, it added.
Sources have told Reuters the company has begun looking for a financial backer. A third party panel of financial and legal advisers formed by Takata is approaching companies, including those in the automotive industry, seeking financial aid, the sources said last month.
Takata posted a net loss of JPY13.1bn ($120m) for the year ended in March. Excluding the impact of the recalls, it expects to post a net profit of JPY13bn this year.
Reuters noted analysts are also watching developments next Monday when Takata will issue a notice in the United States to remove 14m inflators – the first step in its latest recalls.
Up until now, automakers have launched what are called investigative recalls. If Takata issues a regular recall notice, that could be an indication that it will have to accept more responsibility, analysts told the news agency.