TOKYO -- Troubled airbag maker Takata Corp. promoted Swiss-born Stefan Stocker to president last year to inject global thinking and openness into the insular, family-dominated Japanese supplier.
But the company here has been anything but transparent in its response to the worldwide uproar over Takata's exploding airbag inflators.
Neither Stocker, a buttoned-down, Japanese-speaking ex-Bosch executife, nor his boss, founding family scion, Chairman and CEO Shigehisa Takada, 48, has deigned to come out publicly to address the crisis or answer mounting questions from regulators and the media.
The seeming lack of public accountability is drawing rare rebukes in Japan, where regulators and public opinion typically are more lenient than in the United States on national corporate champions.
Talk is growing that the crisis could tip Takata into bankruptcy or a bailout. But most likely, Japan Inc. would rally around the company to maintain its operations, analysts say.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun daily newspaper, the country's pro-business version of The Wall Street Journal, questioned whether Takata has the crisis-management skills to solve its troubles.
"It is difficult to understand why the leader of the company has never explained the situation in his own words," the paper scolded in a Nov. 23 editorial. "When a company faces a crisis, the leader's behavior decides the fate of the company. Takata's leaders are not playing such a leadership role."
Indeed, Takata's public relations office seems at a loss for words to explain the executive suite's bunker mentality.
Spokesman Hideyuki Matsumoto replied, "I don't know," when asked why the company's CEO has yet to speak publicly. Matsumoto added that there are no plans for Takada to step forward.
In Japan, where about 2.79 million vehicles have been recalled to fix Takata airbags, the country's recall office at the transportation ministry said it learned of the recalls only at the end of 2008, years after Takata knew about problems.
Part of Takata's sometimes ham-fisted response may be a lack of experience in dealing directly with the public. As a business-to-business auto parts supplier, it is less sophisticated in communicating to retail consumers, some analysts say.