TOKYO -- Textile makers in Japan are boosting production of air-bag fabrics as global demand grows around 7% a year.
More emerging economies are requiring air bags in cars built there, and vehicles in industrialized nations increasingly feature side air bags.
Asahi Kasei Fibers will invest 2 billion yen ($16.6 million) to upgrade a factory in Miyazaki Prefecture. Additional production lines will be installed to lift the site's capacity for nylon for air bags by 10% to 33,000 tons a year.
The Asahi Kasei unit had been investing mostly overseas for its fiber business. But encouraged by the weak yen, it is bringing capital outlays back home, lifting the same factory's output of fabrics for apparel for the first time in four decades last June. The increased air-bag nylon output will be shipped to China, India and other emerging markets.
Toray Industries has been boosting production of basic fabrics for air bags 50% at a textile factory in China's Jiangsu Province this year, with monthly average output rising from 800,000 meters to 1.2 million meters. Toray, which has production bases for basic fabrics in four countries, plans to start mass production of the material in India by October 2016 and possibly do the same in North America down the road.
And Toyobo will set up a basic fabrics factory in Europe this year while starting production of specially treated basic fabrics in the U.S.
Japanese producers enjoy dominance in high-end air-bag materials. Toyobo controls roughly 40% of the world's air-bag yarn market, and Toray ranks third for basic fabrics. The Takata air-bag recalls mostly involved older products, and the current market remains largely unaffected.