Takata Corporation President Steps Down Amid Crisis

By Sophie Williams

Takata Corporation president Stefan Stocker, will step down and Shigehisa Takad, the company’s chairman, will become president in order to unify Takata’s response to the recalls of its air bags. Officials with Takata say the executive shift is intended to speed up decision-making related to the massive safety issue. However, a spokesperson says Stocker’s decision to step down isn’t a move to take responsibility for the massive recall.

The company has been heavily criticized by regulators in the United States for its slow response to the problems, which first came to light six years ago. Takata’s regulatory filings and patents reflect concerns about the stability of ammonium nitrate, the chemical used as propellant to inflate its airbags.  The company and its customers are investigating flawed manufacturing practices, the chemical’s exposure to moisture and degradation among other potential root causes that may explain why the devices can deploy with too much force, with metal and plastic pieces breaking apart and being shot at passengers.

Automakers led by Honda Motor Company, its biggest customer, have issued recalls for more than 20 million vehicles globally, even as Takata resisted the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s demand to expand the safety campaign nationally beyond high-humidity areas.

The prolonged safety crisis has prompted its third biggest client, General Motors Co, to develop contingency plans to shift business to other air bag makers in case recalls widen.