Drivers Frustrated, Dealers Struggle to Replace Recalled Airbags - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Drivers Frustrated, Dealers Struggle to Replace Recalled Airbags

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Millions of drivers are sitting in front of airbags that could malfunction and explode. The federal government ordered a national recall, but Mitch Blacher and the NBC10 Investigators found a fix may take months. (Published Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014)

    Nearly a dozen drivers – including several Philadelphians -- are suing a Japanese auto parts maker after defective air bags sprayed metal fragments as they deployed, maiming and even killing their passengers.

    “When you buy a big item like a car, you expect that you’ll be safe,” said Sol Weiss, a Philly-based attorney with Anapol Schwartz who is representing the group suing Takata.

    Around 14 million Takata-made air bags are defective worldwide and about 8 million of those are in the U.S. The company made air bags for Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, BMW and Honda – which is Takata’s largest customer. 

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a nationwide recall, but Takata has refused to accept the federal government’s decision, citing a lack of data.

    Instead the firm is focused on sending replacement parts to the U.S. regions with high humidity, which Takata officials said contributes to the malfunctioning air bags.

    That decision is causing drivers in our area to hit a roadblock as they try to replace the part in their own cars.

    “You come to the dealership and say, ‘can you replace my air bags?’” Weiss asked. “I’m sorry Mr. Smith, come back in six months.”

    Bill Caras, a BMW owner from Southern California, took his vehicle to a dealership in his area when the government issued the recall.  But, Caras said, his dealer told him it would be months before they could replace the air bag.

    “They said simply don’t have anyone sit in the seat,” he said. “I couldn’t possibly put anyone in the front seat.”

    More than a dozen Philly-area dealerships, including Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Ford, declined to comment when asked how they are handling the recall, instead telling NBC10 Investigators to contact automakers.

    Rick Schostek,a Honda North America exec, told Congress dealers need to replace the recalled air bags immediately, but he anticipates problems. 

    “We believe there will be a parts shortage that may occur despite Takata’s efforts to increase the supply of inflators,” Schostekof said.

    Several carmakers, including Toyota, Honda, General Motors and BMW have issued statements saying their customers’ safety is their top concern and several told Congress they will provide loaner cars if necessary.

    But the parts shortage is putting automakers and dealers in the middle of Takata’s mess, according to Weiss, who referred to the airbags as "time bombs." 

    “They’ve got to speed up production and figure a way they can get these air bags replaced,” he said.

    A Takata executive acknowledged the need for replacement supplies, but it is unclear if Delaware Valley drivers will move up on the priority list.

    “It’s not speed enough,” said Hiroshi Shimizu, senior vice president at Takata.  “We understand the issues so that is why we are discussing to add the capacity of the productions.”

    Attorneys in our area are pushing the Japanese auto parts maker to hand over proprietary information about how the air bags are constructed so other manufacturers could increase production and offer car owners an alternative.

    ****Customers with questions can contact their automaker: BMW Customer Relations, 1-800-525-7417 or email customer.relations@bmwna.com; Toyota Customer Experience Center, 1-888-270-9371 and Lexus Customer Satisfaction, 1-800-255-3987; Honda, recalls.honda.com or 1-800-999-1009, option 4 and recalls.acura.com or 1-800-382-2238, option 4****

    AFFECTED VEHICLES

    Acura: 2002–2003 CL and TL; 2003–2006 MDX; 2005 RL

    BMW : 2000–2005 3-series sedan and wagon; 2000–2006 3-series coupe and convertible; 2001–2006 M3 coupe and convertible

    Chrysler: 2005–2008 Chrysler 300; 2007–2008 Aspen

    Dodge/Ram: 2003–2008 Dodge Ram 1500; 2005–2008 Ram 2500, Dakota, and Durango; 2006–2008 Ram 3500 and 4500; 2008 Ram 5500

    Ford: 2004 Ranger; 2005–2006 GT; 2005–2007 Mustang

    Honda: 2001–2007 Accord; 2001–2005 Civic; 2002–2006 CR-V; 2002–2004 Odyssey; 2003–2011 Element; 2003–2007 Pilot; 2006 Ridgeline

    Infiniti: 2001–2004 Infiniti I30/I35; 2002–2003 Infiniti QX4; 2003–2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45; 2006 Infiniti M35/M45

    Lexus: 2002–2005 SC430

    Mazda: 2003–2007 Mazda 6; 2006–2007 Mazdaspeed 6; 2004–2008 Mazda RX-8; 2004–2005 MPV; 2004 B-series

    Mitsubishi: 2004–2005 Lancer; 2006–2007 Raider

    Nissan: 2001–2003 Maxima; 2001–2004 Pathfinder; 2002–2006 Nissan Sentra

    Pontiac: 2003–2005 Vibe

    Saab: 2005 9-2X

    Subaru: 2003–2005 Baja, Legacy, Outback; 2004–2005 Impreza, Impreza WRX, Impreza WRX STI

    Toyota: 2002–2005 Toyota Corolla and Sequoia; 2003–2005 Matrix, Tundra