Japan's Takata drops after US lawsuits over air-bag defect

Takata shares dropped in Tokyo on Wednesday after reports that the embattled Japanese auto parts maker is facing a US class-action lawsuit over an air-bag defect that may have killed several drivers.

The stock, which has tumbled more than 40 percent in the past month, fell 5.63 percent to close at 1,440.0 yen ($13).

The company, one of the world’s biggest air-bag makers, has been plunged into crisis as it faces serious questions over defects that have been linked to at least four deaths in the US and dozens of injuries.

Media reports said that a lawsuit on behalf of affected vehicle owners was filed on Monday in Florida alleging that Takata tried to cover up the potentially deadly defect, which has sparked recalls of millions of cars.

The lawsuit, which follows separate claims filed by individuals, also reportedly lists car manufacturers, including Toyota and Honda, as defendants.

US law firm Weitz & Luxenberg said on its website Tuesday that it was preparing for a class action suit against Takata after “reports of at least four deaths and nearly 150 injuries from exploding airbags that hurl jagged, razor-sharp pieces of shrapnel at drivers and passengers.”

A Tokyo-based spokesman for Takata, which has more than 43,000 employees worldwide, said the company would not comment “because we have received neither legal papers nor any communication over the reported lawsuits.”

Last week, the Wall Street Journal said federal prosecutors in New York were probing whether Takata made misleading statements about the safety of its bags to US regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the US auto safety regulator, last week expanded its “urgent” warning to owners of cars with Takata air bags to take them to dealers to fix the problem.

The recalls affected 7.8 million vehicles, up from 4.7 million vehicles covered in an earlier warning bulletin.

Vehicles are being recalled because of the risk that an air bag could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing shrapnel at the occupants.

Investigators suspect that the air bags have a higher risk of rupturing in cars operated in areas with high humidity.

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Japan's Takata drops after US lawsuits over air-bag defect
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