Delays in replacing Takata air bags concern NC residents
Posted June 6, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Tens of millions of people are still driving around with Takata brand airbags that were found to be potentially defective in a 2015 recall.
The latest numbers show that, out of the roughly 68 million cars with recalled air bags, only about eight million have been replaced.
The recall includes at least 14 major car makes, including Toyota, Ford, Honda, Mazda, BMW and Audi. Depending on the year of the car, its air bag could be defective.
Raleigh resident Frank Leonard is one of the many frustrated customers waiting for a new airbag. He's been waiting for nearly a year, concerned that his 2011 Ford Mustang has a potentially defective driver's side airbag.
"My wife drives that car 90 percent of the time," he said. "She loves this car, but her life is at stake."
So far, 13 people have died as a result of shrapnel shooting out of the airbags, and more than 100 were hurt.
Leonard received notice of the Takata air bag recall last July. When he went to the dealership, he was told by staff that they did not have the parts to replace his airbag and that they didn't know when the parts would be available.
Priority for the repairs is going to older vehicles driven in the most humid states, and North Carolina is not included. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates fixes will take until at least 2019.
According to the NHTSA, this is the largest and most complex safety recall in the nation's history.
"In a perfect world, I would say that those who have defective airbags need to park their car and never touch it again until it's fixed," said North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield, who sits on a committee that questioned NHTSA about the recall. "But that doesn't work in the real world. Our automakers have got to step up to the plate, and suppliers have got to do the same. We in Congress must keep the pressure applied to make sure that it happens."
For vehicle owners like Leonard, the wait is frustrating - and scary.
"Somebody needs to grab ahold of [this problem] and say this is what we're gonna do, and here's how we're gonna do it," said Leonard. "There are people acknowledging the problem, but I don't hear about anybody coming up with any real, first-rate ideas to resolve the problem in a timely manner, and that's what really bothers me."
It's even more concerning that some manufacturers are using defective airbags as replacements in the cars and that many brand new cars are still being sold with the defective airbags.
Manufacturers other than Takata are now making parts to replace the air bags, and Takata is even using competitors' products in half of its replacement kits.
Some car manufacturers are offering affected customers a loaner car until the fix is made. Others are encouraging customers to minimize driving and to not allow passengers to ride in the affected seats.
"We take the chance every time we drive it out of the driveway," said Leonard. "I want it fixed, not just for me, but for everybody who has the same issue."
Is your car affected in the recall?
Millions of owners involved in the expanded recall still haven't been notified to see if they're included. The list of all cars involved in this recall can be found on SaferCar.gov.
Customers who drive cars with Takata air bags are encouraged to be persistent with their dealers to check on the status of repairs.