Takata Plans Ad Campaign to Alert Drivers of Recalled Airbag Risk

By Jeff Plungis | August 12, 2015

Takata Corp., whose exploding airbag modules have been tied to eight fatalities and the largest-ever U.S. automotive recall, is planning an extensive advertising campaign to urge consumers to get the defect fixed.

The outreach efforts for a series of massive recalls affecting 11 automakers and an estimated 32 million vehicles include targeting high-humidity states like Texas and Florida first. The company opted for a regional approach, Takata said, to ensure the availability of replacement kits.

Tests also continue to show the “primary role” of prolonged exposure to high humidity to the inflator ruptures, the company said in documents posted Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The plans are part of the Tokyo-based company’s efforts to rein in fatalities and injuries related to airbags that explode, sending shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

Takata’s proposal includes “a robust digital advertising campaign” and is designed to support automakers’ efforts to increase recall completion rates, said Jared Levy, a U.S. spokesman for the company.

“We look forward to working with NHTSA and our automotive customers on this important effort,” Levy said.

airbag probeTakata told NHTSA it’s working to maximize the number of vehicles that get repaired and assisting in the auto companies’ outreach efforts. The company opted to rely on a phased regional approach, rather than to target consumers based on the age of their vehicles.

Record Recall

The volatile airbag inflators behind the largest auto safety recall in U.S. history went unresolved for a decade with neither Takata nor the U.S. agency that regulates it finding an underlying cause. The report to NHTSA was required under a May agreement in which Takata admitted to a safety defect and expanded some airbag recalls.

Takata is planning to begin advertising in seven U.S. southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. The initial wave of ads will include Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. advertising campaign is appropriate,’’ the company told NHTSA.

The airbag supplier is planning to emphasize digital advertising through websites like CNN and Yahoo!, as well as social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Urgent Notice

Banner ads will be in red with the phrase “Urgent Airbag Recall Notice” in bold letters. The company also will work with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on a direct mailing to reach about 85 percent of the U.S. market.

Takata also filed a plan on how it will conduct the testing that is designed to find the root cause for the airbag failures. The publicly available portion of the plan is scant – 37 of the 39 pages have been marked confidential on a document posted on the agency’s website.
The testing plan contains proprietary information, including technical changes to inflators that hasn’t been released outside the company, Takata said in the filing.

NHTSA granted the confidentiality request after reviewing the documents, as the agency often does with business-sensitive information, agency spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said.

Regulators are reviewing both of the reports, Trowbridge said.

Levy, the Takata spokesman, didn’t immediately comment on how much the advertising campaign would cost.

The regulator and the parts maker have agreed to cooperate on testing of airbag modules as both investigate possible causes for the explosions.

NHTSA is urging consumers to comply with the recalls, because newer airbag units are safer than the defective versions. But neither the company nor regulators can assure vehicle owners that the fixes will permanently reduce the risk of an exploding airbag.

NHTSA’s administrator, Mark Rosekind, said at a June 2 congressional hearing there may be more than one root cause for the Takata explosions, or investigators may never know for sure what the issue is.

(With assistance from Mark Clothier in Southfield, Michigan.)

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