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Demand for Safe Air Bags Increases Across the Globe

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In November 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) called for a nationwide recall of all Takata driver’s side air bags in the United States. The administration took the move in response to a number of incidents in which these air bags, instead of deploying as expected, exploded, sending metal plastic shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle. At least five people have been killed from injuries sustained because of these explosions, while over 100 have been seriously injured.

So far, Takata has resisted expanding the recall, stating that the evidence doesn’t support the need, and arguing that they are already replacing air bags in humid climates where the risks are higher for explosions. Recent cases of air bag related injuries have occurred in drier climates, however, such as California, casting doubt on Takata’s reasoning.

Currently, according to the Washington Post, Takata makes about one in five air bags worldwide. Still, there has been some concern that the company would not be able to keep up with demand for new parts as automakers like Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler expand their own recalls related to the issue. Recently, Japan’s Daicel Corporation stated it would boost production because of rising demand.

Car Makers Looking at New Suppliers for Air Bags

Daicel makes air bag inflators—those devices responsible for the “blow-up” action of an air bag during an accident. They are one of the world’s largest producers of these inflators, but yet they are expanding to meet Takata replacement needs. They plan to hire 100 additional workers in Japan, and they are also looking into beefing up production in other factories, possibly including those in the U.S.

Honda, the automaker most affected by Takata air bag defects, has considered Daicel and other companies as new suppliers of air bag inflators, since Takata is struggling to keep up with demand for replacement parts. Honda has also turned to Autoliv Inc., a company headquartered in Sweden, to help supply additional replacement parts. Autoliv is the largest maker of inflators, and now stands to increase even further its reach into the market.

Honda recently expanded its recall nationwide, and is looking for alternative companies to help them accomplish the necessary replacements.

Other Companies Expanding to Meet Demand for Air Bags

In addition to the demand for air bag parts to accommodate recall requests, air bags in general are coming into higher demand. Auto News recently reported that Toyoda Gosei Co., a Toyota-Motor-Corporation-owned car parts supplier, is also considering increasing its production of air bags as automakers in China, India, and Southeast Asia install them as standard equipment in their vehicles.

TRW Automotive Holdings is also planning to open a new air bag sewing factory in Romania. The United-States-based expects demand to increase in the coming years, and want to be prepared to meet that demand.

Takata’s president, Stefan Stocker, has stepped aside, though he remains a board member for the company. Other managers have reportedly taken pay cuts as Takata seeks to recover from the air bag safety problems, but it continues to resist expanding its previous regional recalls.