You might expect automakers to be fleeing any connection with beleaguered supplier Takata in the wake of the company's exploding airbag inflator crisis. After all, with a Senate hearing, pending lawsuit, plummeting stock value and demand for a national recall, the tier-one supplier isn't at its strongest right now. However, years of cooperation mean that automakers are standing by Takata, and necessity may be playing a role, as well.
Lengthy vehicle development times make it difficult for automakers to cut and run from the supplier.
About 39 percent of Takata's business comes from airbags, and seatbelts make up another significant chunk of the operation too, says Bloomberg. The long-term relationships and lengthy vehicle development times make it difficult for automakers to cut and run from the supplier. "Takata has so much product breadth that I don't really see that they could just disappear," said AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan to Bloomberg.
For example, Takata helped develop the unique front center airbag with General Motors in models like the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave. Outside of safety tech, it is also a partner with Ford on the adaptive steering system available on the upcoming 2015 Edge.
These long-lasting partnerships make change difficult now that there's a problem. According to Reuters, automakers claim it would take a year or longer to set up with a different supplier for replacement airbag inflators. Switching to a completely different part for the repairs might not be a viable option either, because of the engineering time needed.
BMW is taking action, though. According to Reuters, the Bavarian brand is working with the supplier to move inflator production from Monclova, Mexico, to a Takata factory in Freiburg, Germany. The Mexican plant may be the source of some of the faulty parts.