Takata: Airbag-maker files for bankruptcy

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe faulty devices have been linked to at least 17 deaths globally

Japanese car parts maker Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US and Japan.

It is facing billions of dollars in liabilities over its defective airbags, which have been linked to at least 17 deaths worldwide.

Some of the airbags contained faulty inflators which expanded with too much force, spraying metal shrapnel.

US-based Key Safety Systems (KSS) has bought all of Takata's assets, apart from those relating to the airbags.

The $1.6bn (£1.3bn) deal was announced after the Japanese firm filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, with similar action taken in Japan.

"Although Takata has been impacted by the global airbag recall, the underlying strength of its skilled employee base, geographic reach, and exceptional steering wheels, seat belts and other safety products have not diminished," said KSS chief executive Jason Luo.

More than 100 million cars with Takata airbags, including around 70 million vehicles in the US, have been recalled since concerns first emerged in 2007. It is the biggest safety recall in automotive history.

The unknowns - by Mariko Oi, BBC News

The faulty airbags are believed to have been manufactured between 2000 and 2008 in Takata's US factory.

The first explosion happened to a Honda Accord in 2004 in Alabama, injuring the driver. But both Takata and Honda said it was "an anomaly" and didn't disclose the danger of exploding airbags for years.

It was a decade later in 2014 when the New York Times reported about its alleged cover-up which led to legal action against Takata. The firm finally accepted the full responsibilities the following year.

The company's chairman and CEO Shigehisa Takada - who's the grandson of the founder - has been criticised repeatedly for mishandling the crisis.

In a press conference on Monday, he apologised and promised to resign after a new management team takes over.

But there are still many unknowns.

The cause of the malfunctions has not yet been identified, and despite the size of the the recall, Takata admits it is not clear how many of the airbags are still in vehicles on the roads.

In January, Takata agreed to pay $1bn (£784m) in penalties in the US for concealing dangerous defects, and pleaded guilty to a single criminal charge.

The firm paid a $25m fine, $125m to people injured by the airbags as well as $850m to carmakers that used them.

But it is facing further legal action in the US and liabilities of 1 trillion yen ($9bn) - including to 10 carmakers who used its airbags.

Three of them - Honda, Nissan and Toyota - who have been paying recall costs until now, told the BBC that while they would continue negotiating, they were not hopeful of getting the money back.

Trading in Takata shares has been suspended on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and the firm will be delisted late next month.

Small businesses that may be affected by Takata's bankruptcy will get support including loan guarantees says Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko.

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