Takata Corp. Chairman Shigehisa Takada’s failure to come forward and address an air-bag crisis ensnaring the world’s biggest automakers risks shaking investor confidence in the 81-year-old manufacturer’s prospects.
Takada plans to skip Wednesday’s analyst briefing in Tokyo and send in his place Chief Financial Officer Yoichiro Nomura, who also appeared at the city’s stock exchange last week to bow in apology for the company.
The last public showing by the head of the maker of air bags linked to four deaths was in June at an annual shareholder meeting closed to media. Since then, his only statement was issued seven days after the U.S. urged immediate fixes to cars recalled because of Takata products.
Takada’s absence threatens to prolong investor concerns over the company’s ability to overcome the air bag crisis, which has knocked 62 percent off its market value this year.
By contrast, General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra has spoken publicly throughout the year in response to scrutiny over its handling of ignition-switch recalls linked to multiple deaths.
“It’s not good for the CEO to keep silent in a critical situation like this,” said Kazuyuki Terao, Tokyo-based chief investment officer of Allianz Global investors Japan Co., which sold all the Takata shares it held earlier this year. “Takata’s share price may fall further if investors started to think they better sell while it’s still possible.”
Takata has declined multiple requests for interviews with its chairman and chief executive officer Takada, as well as for President Stefan Stocker. In response to the most recent interview request, spokeswoman Kikko Takai said the chairman was “extremely busy.”
Takada, 48, couldn’t be reached at his registered address, where a three-story house is under construction. He earned $2.4 million last year in compensation and dividends, more than the $1.3 million made by Takanobu Ito, president and CEO of Honda Motor Co., Takata’s biggest customer.
Ito told reporters this week that Honda is trying its best to identify the reasons behind the air-bag accidents and that the related deaths and injuries were “heart wrenching.”
“If people have died and it appears that the defects were your responsibility, obviously there is an immediate need for the board and management to publicly react,” said Nicholas Benes, head of the Board Director Training Institute of Japan.