Amid the headlines about the U.S. Justice Department's probe of wire harness supplier Furukawa Electric Co.'s role in a price-fixing scandal, federal scrutiny of safety equipment suppliers has gone almost unnoticed.
Four of the world's top producers of airbags and seat belts -- Autoliv Inc., Takata Corp., TRW Automotive Holdings and Tokai Rika Co. -- are under investigation for anti-competitive practices in the United States, Europe or Japan.
Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona noted that the government has not confirmed that it is investigating any product segment other than wire harnesses.
But on June 9, TRW disclosed that European regulators had searched its occupant safety systems unit in Germany. A month later, TRW confirmed that it had received a subpoena from the Justice Department.
Autoliv also has acknowledged that it received a subpoena from the Justice Department's antitrust division, while Takata said its offices were searched by the FBI.
Takata spokesman Alby Berman confirmed the target of the raid. "We don't know the full scope of the investigation, but we do know that safety systems are included," Berman said. A spokesman for Tokai Rika's U.S. safety systems unit, TRAM, said he had no comment on the Justice Department investigation.
Other companies may be involved in a probe of safety equipment suppliers. Denso Corp., which makes sensors and control units for airbags, acknowledged that the FBI searched its suburban Detroit offices on Feb. 23, 2010.
TRW and Denso declined to comment on a federal probe.