The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has suggested that independent repair shops should get involved in the massive recall of cars that need to have their Takata airbags replaced. This is because they think that the manufacturers are too slow in getting the replacement equipment fitted. Many global manufacturers are affected by the recall – mostly Japanese brands with the recalled parts originally coming from a single Takata factory in Mexico. GM was also affected and even Ferrari had to do a recall, albeit of a much smaller number than the big guys! Ferrari’s recall was not related to the main recall, for 800 cars in the US market, the airbags inflated the wrong way increasing the chance of injury.
Currently only authorised franchised new-car dealers are capable of replacing the airbags, however with the volume to be changed, the NHTSA thinks that independent shops could be authorised by the manufacturers to speed up the process. However NADA (the National Automobile Dealers Association) suggests that the NHTSA concentrate on getting more airbags to market rather than more repair outlets. They suggest that the authorised franchisees have the capacity to complete the work but don’t have enough new parts coming through.
By the beginning of October, only 22% of the US cars recalled had been fixed, however some cars have been fitted with the same inflator that caused the original recall! Honda have stated that they are replacing 24,000 units a day using parts from Takata, TRW, Daicel and Autoliv. Their main concern is encouraging owners to bring their cars in – many are being replaced during regular servicing, however there are many cars that do not have a scheduled service coming up.
Takata is currently shipping 2.8 million replacement kits a month to dealers in the US and related markets. The NHTSA has eight ideas to speed up the process that they are considering with the independent repair shops being just one of the choices. However, this week, the US Government confirmed what everyone already knew – that the ammonium nitrate inflators were the cause of the recall and this prompted Toyota, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi to announce that they were switching suppliers. This will put another huge dent in Takata’s revenues and will make it harder for them to pay the US$70M fine levied against them this week by the NHTSA. This fine was on top of the $14,000 a day that the company had already been hit with and I still feel that they were in a Catch-22 situation and that the fine was objectionable: the company was fined for not providing faulty parts to the Government at a time when the courts barred them from releasing the very same units!