Honda Considering National Recall in Takata Airbag Crisis | Edmunds

Honda Considering National Recall in Takata Airbag Crisis

WASHINGTON Honda is "actively considering" a national recall of vehicles with Takata airbags and will provide free loaners or rental cars for all owners awaiting Takata airbag replacement, a top company executive told a Senate committee during testimony on Thursday.

"We will take care of our customers," said Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to expand regional recalls of defective driver-side airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata into a nationwide recall.

"This decision is based on the agency's evaluation of a recent driver-side airbag failure in a vehicle outside the current regional recall area and its relationship to five previous driver-side airbag ruptures, all of which are covered by existing regional recalls," NHTSA said in a statement late Tuesday.

The defective airbags can deploy with too much force and spray metal parts at vehicle occupants. The defect has been linked to five deaths. Thus far, the recalls have been limited to high-humidity states and areas.

Schostek said Honda is "actively considering" a national recall of vehicles with Takata airbags as requested by NHTSA.

Schostek, along with a top Takata executive and a Chrysler executive, testified about the ongoing Takata airbag recall crisis that involves at least 7.8 million vehicles built by 10 automakers.

Honda leads all affected automakers with an estimated 5 million vehicles affected by Takata airbag problems.

In a November 5 letter to NHTSA, Honda said it is involved in daily meetings with Takata to share information and discuss its supply of replacement parts.

"We have taken steps with our parts center network to accelerate the delivery of replacement parts to dealer repair facilities, including air shipping parts to dealers within 24 hours," said the Honda letter. "Honda and Acura parts and service representatives are encouraging all dealers to assure that they have sufficient technical and clerical personnel to facilitate repairs."

Honda said it has requested that Honda and Acura dealers extend their service hours, including remaining open on weekends to handle increases in customer demand.

In October and the first few days of November, Honda has made available or reimbursed owners for more than 3,000 loaner or rental vehicles.

Schostek said that "all options are on the table," including using non-Takata airbags as replacement parts.

Scott Kunselman, Chrysler senior vice president for vehicle safety and regulatory compliance, testified that Chrysler will, on a "case-by-case" basis, address requests for rental cars. It won't start Takata airbag repairs until mid-December.

"Concerned customers can contact our hotline and we will address those needs on a case-by-case basis," Kunselman said.

Chrysler will begin replacing potentially faulty airbag inflators in 371,264 vehicles made by Takata starting December 19.

Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata senior vice president of global quality assurance, told the Senate committee: "Takata will continue to cooperate closely with automakers and with government regulators."

But Shimizu would not commit to conducting an independent Takata internal investigation similar to the one conducted by General Motors during the recent defective ignition-switch recall. Nor would he commit to a nationwide recall of Takata airbags.

In emotional testimony, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Stephanie Erdman described losing her vision after an airbag exploded in her 2002 Honda Civic following a crash in Florida last September. She displayed photos of her car and her injury as she was being taken to the hospital.

"I have endured multiple surgeries and therapies," she said. "My vision will never be the same. I will never be the same. I ask the committee to demand real answers. I'm just one of many people who have been affected by these deadly airbags."

Legislators today will introduce the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower's Act, which will provide a monetary reward for employees of automakers and suppliers who provide defect information to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The whistleblowers would share in a portion of the penalties collected by NHTSA and have their identities protected. It would be similar to other federal agency programs, including ones run by the IRS and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Edmunds says: In the meantime, consumers are urged to pay attention to all recalls and field actions by automakers in every vehicle safety recall.

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