An official of the Japanese auto safety parts producer Takata Corp. has been indicted last week for entering rigging prices of the company’s seat belts when they were purchased by the carmakers, according to the US Justice Department.
Takata Corp. is currently at the center of a global auto safety crisis that involves its airbag inflators, which can rupture and explode with too much force, sending shrapnel and metal debris flying inside the cabin at high velocity. Over ten automakers have recalled millions of cars around the globe so far, with four persons killed in the US and a pregnant woman dying in Malaysia.
The US Justice Department indictment of the Takata executive is the latest in a long-running global probe of price fixing of auto parts by suppliers. No less than 32 companies have so far admitted being guilty or agreed to do so and 50 executives have been indicted or took a plea bargain. Takata’s official, Hiromu Usuda, was a sales manager for the company from 2005 to 2011 and has now been accused of conspiring and meeting with other executives from rival component makers to discuss the price to be charged when negotiating with automakers. According to the US officials, the carmakers affected by the price fix were Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and Fuji Heavy Industries – the parent of the Subaru brand. The Justice Department and related antitrust regulators across the world have been investigating for years deals to fix prices of at least 30 parts, ranging from air-conditioning systems to power steering components.