Takata Hires Sard Verbinnen to Handle Air Bag Controversy

Dec 16, 2014 06:00 PM EST | Matt Mercuro

Takata has hired public relations firm Sard Verbinnen & Co, as the company continues to deal with the fallout from its recall crisis.

The Japanese safety parts supplier said in a statement on Tuesday that it hired Sard Verbinnen last week. More than 20 million vehicles have been recalled around the globe by companies since 2008 for defective Takata inflators.

The potentially defective air bag inflators, which can spray vehicle occupants with metal shrapnel, have been linked to five deaths.

Honda alone has been forced to recall 13.4 million vehicles, mainly those sold in the U.S. Honda is easily Takata's biggest customer, according to Reuters.

The hiring of Sard Verbinnen puts a more professional public relations firm in charge to handle communications for the company. The change does raise some questions regarding if Chief Executive Shigehisa Takada will speak on the issue publicly finally, said Scott Upham, president of Valient Market Research, which tracks the air bag industry.

 Sard Verbinnen is a financial communications firm with offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London. Founded in 1992, the company has worked on some of the biggest mergers and acquisitions in the U.S., like an $8.7 billion leveraged buyout of PetSmart, announced earlier this week.

Takada, 48, did apologize to shareholders during Takata's annual meeting in late June, but has not been seen in public since then. The meeting was closed off to the media.

Takata spokesman Alby Berman, 69 confirmed a few weeks ago that he will retire at the end of December, but will remain with the supplier as a consultant.

Honda and its two joint ventures in China announced today plans to recall approximately 569,769 cars over potentially defective air bags which the automaker said were made by Takata. Mazda announced earlier this week that it would recall 330,000 vehicles in the U.S. over faulty driver-side Takata air bags.

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