Takata's Airbag Inflator Troubles a Massive Opportunity for Autoliv

NEW YORK (The Street) -- Recalls of defective airbag inflators by a leading Japanese automotive parts supplier are turning into a massive opportunity for a rival. 

Autoliv (ALV), the Swedish-American company based in Stockholm, said Wednesday it was ready to boost production capacity in order to manufacture more airbag inflators to replace those being recalled by automotive supplier Takata (TKTDY). 

A day earlier, U.S. safety regulators doubled the number of potentially defective Takata airbag inflators being recalled to 34 million. Takata reported that a propellant used to inflate airbags may activate with excessive force, causing a metal canister to explode and send shrapnel into the car's passenger compartment. At least six deaths and 100 injuries worldwide are linked to explosions of Takata inflators.

Honda (HMC) has the most recalled vehicles due to Takata inflators. Models built by BMW, Chrysler  (FCAUFord (F), General Motors, (GMMazda, (MZDAFMitsubishi, (MMTOFNissan, (NSANYSaab, Subaru  (FUJHY)and Toyota  (TM) dating back to 2001 also are affected. Prior to doubling the number of cars recalled in the U.S., 36 million vehicles globally were said to be equipped with potentially defective inflators. 

In January, Autoliv said it had signed contracts to replace up to 25 million defective Takata inflators, when the scope of the recall was smaller. Wednesday's announcement raised questions as to how quickly automotive manufacturers could acquire replacement parts in order to assure owners that their vehicles didn't pose a danger in the event of an airbag deployment. 

"Exactly what this means for us is a bit early to say, but we are of course ready to increase our capacity and deliver to the industry as quickly as we can as we see an increased need," Thomas Jonsson, an Autoliv spokesman, said

Autoliv shares, which are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, are up 23.2% so far this year, while the S&P 500 is up 3.2%. The stock gained about 3% on news of the doubling recall size. 

Shares of Takata, which have lost a third of their value in the past year, were down another 10% on news that the recall will cover twice as many of its inflators. Japan's Nikkei Index is 44% higher during the same period. 

Engineers from automakers investigating the matter said they believe that some of the inflators aren't airtight, which can allow moisture to intrude on the mechanism and destabilize the ammonium nitrate used to deploy the airbag. Takata has said the danger of a defect is greater in areas where the atmosphere is moister; the supplier has been concentrating on first addressing vehicles located in those areas. 

A car owner who wants to know if a vehicle is affected by the Takata recall can find out by punching its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into a search engine provided at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site.

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