NHTSA ramp up on Takata airbag defect prompts largest recall in U.S. history

NHTSA ramp up on Takata airbag defect prompts largest recall in U.S. history

But ground rules for dealers on recalls remain unchanged

The recall of airbags supplied in a variety of vehicles for years by the Japanese parts manufacturer Takata was broadened this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which expanded the mandated vehicle airbag recall from the 17 million recalled to date to an estimated 34 million. Far beyond the largest automotive recall in history that befell Ford in 1983 involving 23 million vehicles, the newly announced Takata airbag recall will also trump Tylenol as the largest recall of any product in the U.S. which called back 31 million bottles of anti-inflammatory pills in 1982. The defect involves the airbag deflator that can degrade over time, in part, due to exposure in the car to heat and humidity. While most Takata airbags deployed in crashes over the years worked as they were supposed to, a portion have not, resulting in airbag induced injury (about 100 incidents) and death (of six) which is the basis for the NHTSA action.

Detroit News reported that Takata airbag recalls date back to 2008, albeit OEM concerns about the airbags began earlier. At least 11 automakers produced vehicles equipped with the Takata units that may be impacted by the recall: Ford, GM, Daimler Trucks, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Fiat/Chrysler, Mazda Motors, Mitsubishi and Subaru USA. The exact models and VINs covered by the expanded recall are being determined by Takata and the automakers with vehicles involved. Takata is being assisted by other airbag manufacturers to produce the huge number of replacement airbags this recall will require. From there, the impacted automakers will communicate directly through their dealer networks and directly to vehicle owners to advise all parties when to expect replacement parts and interim steps, if any, vehicle operators should take.

Given the prospect of many months, if not years, to complete a recall on this scale, allocation processes are likely that will be determined by owner/operator risk factors, emanating from the impacted vehicles themselves.

For now, NADA is advising dealers to reassure concerned customers that they will be receiving First Class/ U.S. Mail letters from their automaker that their car or light truck is the subject of a federal safety recall. Customers can also go to the official NHTSA website to see if their vehicle is subject to this recall or any other: VIN lookup website. Recall Spotlight on the Takata Airbag is covered on NHTSAês website specifically accessed by clicking here. A valuable NADA management guide entitled Safety Recalls: Q&A for Franchised Dealers can be reviewed by clicking here. The official NHTSA piece for dealers, entitled Dealer Tips For VIN Lookup and Vehicle Recalls can be accessed by clicking here.

The upshot to all this is that dealers need to look to their automakers for instructions on how to proceed with recalls on their brands of vehicles and rely on resources like safer.gov from NHTSA to check on other brand vehicles being taken in trade and that otherwise end up in used car retail inventory.

For its part WANADA will work closely with NADA and the Automotive Trade Associations network to keep dealer members informed with what they need to know.

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