Within 24 hours, customers, regulators and rival suppliers announced plans to take the following steps:
- NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman vowed to hold hearings to force Takata to declare that its inflator is defective -- which would trigger a nationwide recall -- despite Takata's insistence that he does not have the authority.
- Autoliv, Takata's biggest rival, said it will produce some replacement inflators for Honda, even though Takata is adding two production lines at its plant in Monclova, Mexico.
- Honda Motor Co., Takata's biggest customer, will issue a nationwide recall to fix its driver-side airbags, despite Takata's insistence that it isn't necessary.
- Toyota said it would hire an independent engineering firm to test Takata's inflators, even though Takata has pledged to quadruple its daily test rate.
Five deaths worldwide have been linked to Takata's inflators, which can explode and send shrapnel at drivers and passengers.
To be sure, Takata has carefully avoided public disagreements with its customers. In an e-mailed statement on Friday, Dec. 5, company spokesman Alby Berman said Takata would cooperate with Autoliv and other suppliers as they ramp up to produce replacement inflators.
He added that Takata welcomed Toyota's call for independent tests. "Takata has always cooperated with its customers and will continue to do so," Berman said.
But there's a growing reluctance among automakers to leave it up to Takata to identify and fix the root cause of its defective inflators.
Last week, Honda, Chrysler, Mazda, Subaru and Ford each confirmed they would cooperate with Toyota's test initiative -- an indication that the automakers no longer trust Takata to identify the cause of the inflator malfunctions, says industry consultant Scott Upham.
"That was pretty damning," said Upham, principal of Valient Market Research, a consulting firm in Rochester, N.Y. "Takata's customers have given it a vote of no confidence."
Takata's ultimate fate rests in the hands of two key players: Honda and NHTSA.
While NHTSA's regulatory powers make the agency the key player in the short run, Takata's long-term prospects rest in large part with its biggest customer, Honda.
According to Valient, Takata produces as many as half of Honda's inflators worldwide. Honda has begun to ease its dependence on Takata.
Honda's decision last week to expand its regional recalls of driver-side inflators nationwide will add an estimated 3.2 million vehicles to its active recall list, which now totals 6 million.
Takata can't possibly provide enough inflators quickly. The supplier's Monclova plant produces 300,000 replacement inflators per month, and the addition of two production lines will boost monthly production to 450,000 units.
At that rate, it would take at least two years to produce enough inflators for recalled Hondas and other makes.
On Wednesday, Dec. 3, Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, told Congress that Honda had asked Daicel and Autoliv if they could produce additional inflators -- a development that Autoliv followed later that day with an announcement that it would do so.
Autoliv has not indicated how many replacement inflators it would produce for Honda or anyone else. But Steve Fredin, Autoliv's group vice president of sales and engineering, hints that he is thinking big.
And in an interview with Automotive News on Friday, Dec. 5, he confirmed plans for a major effort. "We are ramping up to produce millions of inflators," he said. "We are stepping up. We are talking to any and all automakers that are affected."
He added that new production lines can't be left idle after the crisis abates.