Takata Corporation, a global supplier of automotive safety systems including seat belts, airbags, steering wheels, interior trim and child restraint systems has closed its Atlantis, Western Cape facility, including the magnesium diecasting foundry.
The Japanese based company has production facilities on four continents, with its European headquarters located in Germany, where it also has nine production facilities.
The Atlantis manufacturing facility, which has roots dating back to 1951 in South Africa when it was established as AB Jackson manufacturing injection moulded components for commercial and allied industries before being sold to Bremco (Pty) Ltd, was mainly involved in the manufacture of steering wheels, frame shop manufacture, foaming, trimming, leather sewing, leather wrapping and assembly.
In 1961, due to local OEM demand, the company acquired a manufacturing license from German company Petri AG to produce steering wheels. This subsequently led to Petri acquiring a 24% stake in Bremco in 1974 before the remaining shareholding was acquired in 1997.
The company name changed to Petri South Africa in 1998 and subsequently Takata Petri South Africa in 2000 when Takata purchased Petri AG.
The local operation began magnesium diecasting in the steering wheel frame production area in 2005, and final assembly of seatbelt retractors and seatbelt buckles in 2007.
The company had moved its manufacturing plant to the industrial area of Atlantis in 1990 and at the time of closure had over 300 employees. Only 20 staff took up the option of moving to the company’s Durban, KwaZulu Natal operation, which was established in 2013 so that the company could be close to one of its main clients Toyota Manufacturing South Africa. This facility concentrates on the COP-Airbag testing area and driver airbag module assembly and employs 180 staff.
The three diecasting machines used for magnesium diecasting in the steering wheel frame production area were sent to one of the company’s plants in Germany.
Takata have been in the news constantly recently. Certain types of airbag inflators manufactured by Takata were found to have a potential for moisture intrusion over time. As a result, they could be susceptible to abnormal deployment in a crash. The relationship of moisture intrusion, if any, to the risk of inflator rupture is not known. To date, worldwide no injuries or fatalities caused by this condition have been reported although thousands of vehicles have been subject to recall costing the company millions.
However in a new development, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also said it has begun an investigation that could yet add millions more vehicles using Takata’s air bag inflators due to new reports of dangerous malfunctions.
The latest investigation could potentially expand a future recall to cover not just older vehicles but millions of newer models. And the new NHTSA probe is targeting a wider range of air bag types, including side-impact restraints, not just the frontal devices covered by the original Takata recall.