AIRBAGS are meant to make driving safer. But for years, some made by Takata, a Japanese firm, inflated with such vigour that shards of metal and plastic were launched at occupants of vehicles in even minor collisions, causing serious injury and in some cases death. The costs of the biggest-ever recall of vehicles, hauled back to correct the problem, and the associated lawsuits claimed another victim on June 26th. Takata itself filed for bankruptcy in America and Japan, and sold its surviving operations to a competitor, Key Safety Systems (KSS).

It is the latest in a series of self-inflicted wounds by Japanese corporate giants. Takata’s travails come on the heels of other disasters, including insolvency at Sharp, a formerly dominant consumer-electronics firm, and massive losses at Toshiba, a nuclear power and consumer-electronics empire. All suggest a recurring pattern of lack of transparency and leadership.

Takata’s bankruptcy is due to its airbags’ use of chemicals...Continue reading