Honda and other automakers that have recalled vehicles equipped with Takata airbags are trapped in a nasty dilemma.
Even if automakers fend off federal regulators' request for a nationwide recall of driver-side airbags, it could take two years or so for Takata to produce enough replacement airbag inflators.
And it's unclear whether other suppliers can help Takata produce more inflators. Several automakers have warned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that other suppliers' inflators would require lengthy testing.
Exploding Takata inflators have been linked to four deaths in the United States. Honda and Acura vehicles account for more than half of the vehicles recalled for Takata airbags.
By January, Takata hopes to boost monthly output of replacement inflators to 450,000 from 300,000, a rate that would require about two years to supply 10 million vehicles recalled in the United States. Many more inflators will be needed if regulators order automakers to expand their regional recalls nationwide.
If Takata asks rival suppliers such as Autoliv Inc. or TRW Automotive to help, automakers say they would need a year or two just to test their inflators. In letters sent to NHTSA this month, BMW AG, General Motors and Mazda Motor Corp. warned that it would be difficult to switch to other suppliers' inflators.
Switching suppliers could take as long as a year, estimated Dino Triantafyllos, Toyota's North American chief quality officer.
"We have been advised by suppliers that the development and production of a replacement inflator for a particular model by a supplier other than Takata could take a minimum of one year, and could take longer," Triantafyllos wrote.
BMW is not trying to obtain replacement airbags from other suppliers because "the BMW air bag design is unique to Takata and to the affected BMW vehicles," wrote Sam Campbell, department head of BMW's safety engineering systems.
Campbell estimated that a switch to other suppliers would take two years and "divert BMW's limited available resources."