Prompted by the largest auto safety recall in American history, many consumers are arriving in auto dealerships in the South Bay, California region to replace potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators in their vehicles.
Eric Bolstad, fixed-operations director for Carson Honda and Scott Robinson Honda, says approximately 60 cars are arriving per day with notices from the massive recall. He explained that the majority of the vehicles are older-model Hondas, which require fixes for passenger-side air bags.
Although reports indicate that some dealerships are experiencing lengthy delays in securing the required parts for the Takata recall, Carson Honda and Scott Robinson have the necessary materials. However, consumers may still have to leave their vehicles at the dealership for an entire day, due to the massive demand.
“Honda is providing a rental for the day,” Bolstad explained. “I have plenty of parts in stock. Right now, we’re doing 50 to 60 air bag inflator replacements per day.”
Unfortunately, the delays being experienced at many dealerships is a cause for serious concern, as the faulty inflators have the potential to fire a blast of jagged shrapnel into a vehicle’s passenger compartment in the event of a collision. Reports indicate that at least 11 people have been killed by faulty Takata airbag inflators in the United States, with another 180 having suffered serious injuries. Overall, the recall affects as many as 42 million vehicles and 19 automakers, while the biggest threat exists in certain 2001-03 Hondas and Acuras.
Takata pleaded guilty to wire fraud in January, following the U.S. Department of Justice’s determination that the company deceived automakers about the safety of its products. Takata subsequently agreed to pay a $1 billion penalty.
“For more than a decade, Takata repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related to the safety of its products, putting profits and production schedules ahead of safety,” Andrew Weissmann, chief of the fraud section of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement.
The scale of the problem is massive. While in excess of 7.3 million driver-side air bags had been repaired by March 3, this number accounts for only 44.3 percent of the defective units.
“It has been a frustrating issue for the car dealers and car associations across the country,” said Todd Leutheuser, executive director of the Southland Motor Car Dealers Association. “Not all the replacement parts are available to get to the consumers. The dealers are waiting. Nobody has the answers.”
In fact, the scale of the Takata recall is so large that the federal government has enlisted rival air bag manufacturers Autoliv Inc., ZF TRW and Daicel Corp. to make inflators to keep up with the demand.
Although every vehicle with these air bags should be taken in to be fixed, the summer temperatures in Southern California are said to increase the risk, as the heat and humidity can exacerbate the defect in Takata’s inflators. In addition to the delays, there are still some motorists who haven’t responded to the recall notices, and may in fact not even be aware that they’re driving a vehicle with a defective air bag.
In order to educate consumers about the potential risks, a coalition of civic and community leaders in California launched a mobilization effort called “Airbag Recall: Southern California.”
“The ongoing air bag inflator recall is the largest auto recall in U.S. history, and it demands immediate attention, especially here in Southern California,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price.