ML Takata plant hopes to work for new owner

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MOSES LAKE — Commissioners with the Port of Moses Lake voted on Monday to do what they could to keep Takata’s Moses Lake manufacturing plant open and working, even after the company’s assets are sold off.

According to Mike Gearin, a Seattle-based attorney with international law firm K & L Gates which represents the Port of Moses Lake, China-based Ningbo Joyson Electronics has purchased Takata’s U.S. assets through its U.S. subsidiary, Key Safety Systems, also known as Joyson KSS.

“Takata’s plan presumes all leases will be assumed,” Gearin told commissioners. “We are confident the plant will be open after the transaction.”

Commissioners approved a short extension to the deadline allowing Takata to transfer the lease, hoping to keep the site open.

“Anything we can do to accommodate the new owners of Takata is a benefit to our community,” said Commission Chair David “Kent” Jones, reflecting the view of all three port commissioners.

In 2013, Tokyo-based Takata announced that a number of the devices it created to inflate automobile airbags could malfunction, injuring or killing drivers and passengers. Takata also hid the defect from regulators and customers for years, even going so far as to falsify test results, Gearin said.

Gearin added the bankruptcy plan will establish a $125 million fund to pay compensation to victims and companies most affected by the defect, so whoever buys the Moses Lake facility — or Takata’s other assets — will not be buying that liability.

The phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate inflators that were defective were only 20 percent of the Moses Lake facility’s business, Gearin said. Takata has stopped making that type of airbag inflator in Moses Lake, and hopes to continue manufacturing in Moses Lake once Joyson has finished acquiring Takata’s assets in mid-February, he added.

“The Moses Lake plant has started a new line of business intended to keep working indefinitely,” Gearin said.

Earlier this month, Takata laid off between 60 and 65 employees at its Moses Lake plant.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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