Consumers Union: Takata, Auto Industry Failing to Protect Consumers from Deadly Airbags

Experts

Director of Cars and Product Policy and Analysis
Policy Analyst

Friday, November 17, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today issued a report by an independent monitor on the Takata airbag recalls.  The report found that many automakers are not taking key steps to get defective and potentially lethal Takata airbags off U.S. roads. The recalls, which currently apply to 19 car manufacturers and some 34 million U.S. vehicles, involve defective airbags that can explode with excessive force and send metal shards into consumers at a high speed, causing severe injury or death.

Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, has pushed for the widest possible public awareness of this serious hazard, and for NHTSA, automakers, suppliers, and dealers to provide consumers with prompt and effective recall repairs. Through its journalism and recommendations, Consumer Reports has helped consumers navigate these wide-reaching, complex, and confusing recalls. Consumer Reports recommends all consumers visit safercar.gov or airbagrecall.com to check if their vehicle has an open recall and to quickly bring in any defective vehicles for a free repair.

David Friedman, Director of Cars and Product Policy and Analysis for Consumers Union, said, “Takata and the auto industry as a whole are not doing enough to protect consumers from deadly, defective airbags, as this report makes clear. Some automakers seem to be outright failing in meeting their responsibilities to consumers. Others appear to be doing better, though even they have significant room for improvement. For automakers that are failing consumers, NHTSA should explore strong consent orders and significant fines to hold them accountable.”

Friedman previously served as both Deputy and Acting Administrator of NHTSA, including in 2014 when NHTSA called for a national recall of dangerous driver-side Takata airbags and launched a detailed, in-depth investigation of the airbag defect.

Friedman said, “The majority of automakers can do much more, as proven by the outcomes that better-performing automakers have achieved. Some companies are not taking the issue seriously enough to even take basic steps that their marketing departments use every day to pull in customers, like targeting internet users or including Spanish-language communications. Given the monitor’s findings of the barriers that consumers perceive and experience in completing their recalls, automakers should invest at least as much in marketing the recalls as they do in marketing their products.

“Consumers should be able to know whether their car company is stepping up or leaving them at risk, and the recall performance of each automaker should be identified by name in this and follow-up reports. A critical way to make sure every company is doing its part is to publicize who is following best practices—like clearly communicating the hazard, using the latest marketing techniques, providing significant dealer incentives, and ensuring widespread availability of loaner cars—and who is not.”

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Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org202-462-6262

Consumers Union is the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports. Consumers Union works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications.