TOKYO: Takata executives faced angry investors Tuesday after the company at the centre of the world’s biggest auto safety recall filed for bankruptcy and said it was being bought by a US company.
The filing all but destroys any value left in the Japanese airbag maker’s shares, which will be delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange next month.
Many who attended the shareholder meeting Tuesday expressed outrage at how the auto parts giant handled the crisis caused by a defect in the firm’s airbags that has been blamed for at least 16 deaths and scores of injuries.
“I’m resigned to it now that my anger has subsided. That time has passed,” said one 48-year-old investor who declined to give his name, outside the meeting, which was closed to media.
“Why couldn’t they have addressed these issues faster, when the recalls first emerged back in 2008 and 2009?”
On Monday, Takata said it has filed for bankruptcy protection and would be bought by US auto parts maker Key Safety Systems (KSS), which is owned by China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic, for $1.58 billion.
Tuesday’s meeting was held to reappoint the company’s board as the business changes hands.
Takata’s chief executive Shigehisa Takada, whose grandfather started the company in 1933 as a textile maker, has said he will resign once the transition is completed.
“I want to ask the president how he feels about his responsibility” for the crisis, said 66-year-old Minoru Matsuo.
Millions of airbags produced for some of the world’s biggest automakers, including Toyota and General Motors, are being recalled because of the risk that they could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing deadly shrapnel at the occupants.
Nearly 100 million cars, including about 70 million in the United States, were subject to the recall.
Takata, which is facing lawsuits and huge recall costs, has been accused of hiding the problem with its airbags for years, even as deaths and injuries linked to the crisis mounted.
Honda, a major Takata customer, first sounded the alarm that there might be a problem in 2008.
But the scandal reached a peak only in 2014 when earlier deaths started getting more media attention and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration became involved in the ballooning recalls.
Takata has already agreed to pay a billion-dollar fine to settle with US safety regulators over its airbags.
But its liabilities are reportedly set to top 1.0 trillion yen ($9 billion) in what is the biggest bankruptcy filing for a Japanese manufacturer.
Trading in Takata shares was suspended Monday after a week of wild volatility.
“I put in quite a lot of money into this company,” said 36-year-old Takata shareholder Kenichi Asahi.
“Now the shares are nothing more than trash.”