Only 6% of Cars Recalled for Airbags Repaired

By Ma Jie and Craig Trudell | November 21, 2014

Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and other major automakers have fixed only a fraction of the almost 8 million cars called back in the last two years to replace potentially defective Takata Corp. airbags.
About 6 percent of affected vehicles recalled by nine carmakers have been remedied, according to Bloomberg News calculations based on figures provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Honda and Toyota, which have the largest number of recalls, each said less than 6 percent have been repaired, in letters released on NHTSA’s website yesterday.

The low rate underscores the potential risks to owners who have yet to bring in their affected cars for repairs. NHTSA this week demanded automakers broaden their campaigns nationwide after months of allowing limited regional recalls. Takata said the expanded callback could risk lives by aggravating the shortage of replacement parts.

The company’s faulty airbags have been linked to four deaths in the U.S. and one in Malaysia, all occurring in Honda cars. Takata’s inflators have injured or killed motorists by deploying with too much force, breaking apart metal parts within the air bag module and shooting them at passengers.

Honda meets with Takata daily to share inflator demand information and discuss supply, the carmaker told NHTSA in its letter dated Nov. 5.

The Tokyo-based company made available or reimbursed owners for more than 3,000 loaner and rental vehicles in October and the first few days of November. Honda said it’s had no significant shortage of parts to repair vehicles.

More Inflators

Both Honda and Toyota said they’re exploring ways to obtain additional airbag inflators, including by reaching out to alternative suppliers.

Developing and producing a replacement inflator by an alternative supplier could take “a minimum of one year” and possibly longer if the parts need to be fine-tuned to specific vehicle characteristics, Toyota said in its letter.

Nissan Motor Co., the automaker with the third-most vehicles affected, said obtaining replacement inflators from other suppliers is “not feasible,” as the parts would require re-engineering and validation to ensure quality and safety.

Ten carmakers have recalled vehicles over potentially fatal Takata airbags.

There was no filing on the NHTSA website by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, in response to queries from the regulator. Kenichi Yano, a Tokyo-based spokesman for the company, couldn’t immediately comment.

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