On June 23, Rick Schostek, executive vice president, Honda North America, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, regarding Honda’s use of defective Takata Airbags in its vehicles and several deaths that have occurred as a result. In his statement before the Senate, Schostek acknowledged that in the past two weeks it has been confirmed that two more drivers lost their lives – one in September 2014 and the other in April of this year – as a result of Takata airbag inflator ruptures that occurred in older model Honda vehicles. This brings the total number of deaths related to defective Takata airbags to eight.
“This is heartbreaking, and a painful reminder to us of the reason we continue to urgently accelerate our actions to repair the affected vehicles,” Schostek stated. “But of course the real pain is experienced by the families of the victims. We sincerely apologize to them, and extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathies.”
Among those accelerated actions Schostek referred to, Honda has approached the recall efforts from a number of angles beyond traditional mailed notifications. In addition to enhancing its general recall website and creating a new microsite to keep customers informed of recalls, Honda also voluntarily initiated a bi-lingual regional advertising campaign in March to urge customers to repair their vehicles. The campaign included radio commercials and full-page newspaper ads. Honda also said it is using social media channels in a targeted way to reach consumers. In some markets, Honda has enlisted a special investigative firm as part of its effort to contact hard-to-reach owners of older model vehicles affected by the Takata airbag inflator recalls.
To accelerate the safety actions and increase the supply of airbag inflators, Honda proactively began searching for alternative supply solutions to more quickly facilitate repairs of older model Honda vehicles. This effort led to agreements with Daicel, Autoliv and TRW Automotive to provide the automaker with replacement parts in addition to Takata. As a result of this, Schostek stated that Honda dealers are averaging more than 50,000 repairs per week. Honda dealerships also have expanded service hours and have been asked by the automaker to never turn away a customer with an affected vehicle. All affected customers are to be provided with a loaner or rental vehicle for free while the repair is being made as well.
Schostek added that to further prevent the possibility that any Takata airbag inflators under recall can be used as a replacement part, the company has been searching salvage yards nationwide to find and secure recalled inflators. He stated Honda already identified many thousands of inflators from salvage yards that now never will be installed in another vehicle.
In his testimony, Schostek commented on the concerns surrounding the difficulty of reaching owners of recalled vehicles and noted the need for registration requirements. “Mr. Chairman, for many reasons, it is particularly difficult to locate the owners of older vehicles and get the vehicles repaired. When I testified last November, I suggested that we find a way to tie the annual state vehicle registration process to a requirement that safety defects be addressed before completion of vehicle 3 registration. Subsequently, Ms. Stephanie Erdman, who was injured by a Takata inflator rupture and who also appeared before this committee last fall, joined me in writing an Op Ed in Automotive News in support of the idea of such a registration requirement.
“We continue to believe that there is substantial promise with this approach. I want to thank Senators Markey and Blumenthal for introducing S.617, the Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives Act – the ‘RECALL’ Act. I recognize that there are a number of issues about this concept that require further discussion. But I am convinced that this is the single most significant step we can take to achieve what we all want to accomplish, and that is a 100 percent repair rate. Our company stands ready to work with the Congress to help find a path forward,” Schostek stated.
American Honda continues to urge owners of Honda and Acura vehicles affected by the Takata airbag inflator recalls to get their vehicles repaired at authorized dealers as soon as possible. Vehicle owners can check their vehicles’ recall status at www.recalls.honda.com for Honda owners or www.recalls.acura.com for Acura owners or by calling their authorized dealer.