In the late 1990s, General Motors got an unexpected and enticing offer. A little-known Japanese supplier, Takata, had designed a much cheaper automotive air bag.
GM turned to its air-bag supplier — the Swedish-American company Autoliv — and asked it to match the cheaper design or risk losing the automaker’s business, according to Linda Rink, who was a senior scientist at Autoliv assigned to the GM account at the time.
But when Autoliv’s scientists studied the Takata air bag, they found that it relied on a dangerously volatile compound in its inflater, a critical part that causes the air bag to expand.
“We just said, ‘No, we can’t do it. We’re not going to use it,’ ” said Robert Taylor, Autoliv’s head chemist until 2010.
Continue reading: GM quest for cheaper air bag led to Takata and a deadly crisis