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According to the Los Angeles Times, Honda recently released a statement detailing how a Takata airbag killed a Florida man who was working on his 2001 Honda Accord. The vehicle was not being driven at the time and the report states that the man removed the center console while working on something unrelated to the airbag. For some unknown reason, the airbag suddenly exploded, causing shrapnel to kill him. The report indicates that the vehicle ignition was on, but it is unclear why the air bag deployed without having been in a collision.
This tragic event brings to light another set of dangers associated with Takata airbags. First, any do-it-yourself vehicle owner tinkering with a vehicle that has an airbag recall should ensure their airbag is replaced prior to performing any repairs. However, the bigger issue is the risk this represents to technicians from multiple industries that work on vehicles.
Many independent repair facilities and other specialized repair shops do not check for airbag recalls prior to working on them -- nor would they even think about it. What about that Best Buy car stereo installer who must remove the center console to install a new deck or speakers? Or that mechanic who performs a small repair at an independent repair shop or franchised dealership? Unless these technicians are educated and trained in the proper way to disengage an airbag it is possible that another life could be lost. That business could also be liable for damages. And let’s not forget what’s at stake in service departments everywhere as far as employee safety.
Not one individual in the automotive industry should feel separated from the responsibility of cleaning up the Takata airbag mess. It’s clear that Takata airbags present an even greater danger to consumers and businesses than previously thought – and that danger was already known to be lethal, expensive and damaging to consumer confidence!
It is more important than ever to ensure that consumers are reached and made aware of the danger if they have a vehicle with an open Takata airbag recall. What I’m requesting is that we, in the industry, remain vigilant about the dangers of Takata airbags and that we elevate our state of awareness. Not only should dealerships monitor all the vehicles in their inventory daily for open recalls, but also check with unsuspecting consumers in their service departments and local communities whose vehicles may have had their original airbags replaced with Takata airbags.
Take a look at your process and do what you can to provide this information at every possible touchpoint – phone, email, direct mail and on your website. Have signs in your service waiting area, at the cashier and at your service advisor desks.
While some dealers may feel that educating consumers on the dangers of open recalls borders on creating unnecessary panic, even if it prevents just one incident from occurring, the mission is worth it.
If anything, the dealerships who stand up and acknowledge these dangers communicate something very comforting to consumers – the fact that someone cares about their safety. We are fast approaching an era where consumers accept vehicle recalls as an inadvertent offspring to vehicle ownership. In taking a stand against recalls and in favor of consumer safety, your dealership combats complacency and takes a responsible role in finding a solution.