TOKYO -- Takata Corp. today 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 supplier booked its third annual loss in four years on an increase in recall costs. It forecast a return to profit this financial year but said recall costs had not been factored in as the root cause of the defect has not been determined.
Takata's airbag 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.
The question of just how much Takata will 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 that an investigation it has commissioned is set to come to a conclusion in the summer.
The company's woes only worsened last week with U.S. 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.
$9 billion potential recall costs
Takata's recall costs have so far been comparatively small as automakers have borne most of the burden but the supplier is widely expected to shoulder much more.
If Takata was found to be solely responsible for the problem, it could face a bill of more than $9 billion in recall costs, based on a rough calculation that each replacement kit costs around $100. It also faces U.S. 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 its survival 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 has 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 Corp. about a tie-up to produce airbag inflators are ongoing but nothing has been decided yet, it added.
Sources have said 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.
$120 million loss
Takata posted a net loss of 13.1 billion yen ($120 million) for the year ended in March. Excluding the impact of the recalls, it expects to post a net profit of 13 billion yen this year.
Analysts are also watching developments next Monday when Takata will issue a notice in the United States to remove 14 million 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 say.