More Takata airbags recalled

What you need to know, and what you should do

Late last year, Honda Malaysia announced a recall for City and Jazz models manufactured over the period of 2003 and 2004 to replace faulty airbags that caused the death of five individuals and hundreds of injuries. Tragically, one of the victim was a Malaysian woman who was driving a 2003 Honda City.

Out of the 15,734 units that were recalled, one of them was a 2003-manufactured Honda City that my sister and my parents had been using on a daily basis since the car was driven out of the showroom some 11 years ago. E-mails and calls to Honda Malaysia ensued, and the airbag was eventually replaced after a few weeks. The actual fix took no more than an hour, though only the driver’s side was replaced (the latest recall now covers the passenger side).

To Honda Malaysia’s credit, the customer service department did its best to address our concerns and kept us updated on when the replacement part would arrive at the dealership. Even so, the weeks of waiting felt like months, trips were minimised and passengers were advised to sit at the back. The car in question was eventually sold soon after the airbag fix, however, the episode did not erode my father’s trust in the brand, he would replace the City with a new Jazz.

A few days ago, Takata – the manufacturer of these defective airbags – escalated the recall. It would now entail up to 34 million cars in America alone, constituting the largest ever product recall in history. Closer to home, UMW Toyota announced its latest Takata-related airbag recall program involving 97,000 cars, with Honda Malaysia announcing an additional 87,182 cars needing airbag replacements. However, as Takata is a global parts supplier, it won’t be limited to just the main Japanese brands. In the US, General Motors, Ford, even BMW are affected.

What you need to know, and what you should do
  • Safety is of utmost importance. If you think that your car is fitted with a faulty Takata airbag, have a copy of your vehicle’s registration card ready (it will have all the necessary information), and give your car brand’s customer service a call as soon as possible.
  • If the response of certain brands affected by the faulty airbags appear slow, note that it takes time to sort out owners’ information. Due to the age of the affected vehicles, many of the cars would have changed owners, some cars would have been scrapped, some untraceable. There is no guarantee that all the owners will be successfully notified. Therefore, step #1 is the best.
  • As the Takata airbag recall is unprecedented in scale, replacement airbags have to be produced first and then allocated to respective countries. Dealers have to be trained on how to attend to customers in a systematic manner, technicians also need to know how to identify and replace the defective airbags, and all of this has to happen without interruption to daily operations. In the US, some 34 million cars are affected, the recall programme is expected to take years.
  • The Takata airbag recall serves to remind car buyers the importance of purchasing a vehicle from authorised distributors. Owners of parallel imported cars (e.g. reconditioned cars, gray imports, etc) do not receive official notification of product recalls, and are highly unlikely to be covered by the official recall program. Additionally, official distributors do not possess the owners’ information of cars sold through parallel importers. If you are considering the purchase of a parallel imported car, think again.

Watch the news report on the latest Takata airbag recall in the US by NBC