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Honda, Ford, Mazda still reaching out to owners of "do not drive" cars with Takata airbags


Honda, Ford and Mazda are working against time to find owners of cars with potentially deadly Takata airbags.

These are old vehicles - made in 2001 to 2003, in Honda's case - with the very earliest versions of the defective air bags, known as "alpha" airbags.

Chris Martin of Honda says the propellant in the airbags becomes unstable over time when exposed to heat and humidity.

He says there's up to a 50% chance the airbags will explode in an accident.

"So it's like flipping a coin between your airbag saving you, and potentially killing you or causing serious injury," he says.

There are still about 35,000 of the unrepaired Honda and Acura cars on the road; about 5,000 2006 Ford Rangers; and about 500 2006 Mazda B-series trucks.

Fifteen people in the U.S. have died when they were struck with shrapnel from exploding airbag inflators. Many more people have been injured. A majority of the accidents involved cars with alpha airbags.

The companies have been engaging in an all-out communication blitz, including knocking on doors and trying to reach people in person. The effort is made more difficult because the vehicles may have changed hands several times. In many cases, owners have been contacted multiple times with no response.

Martin says in few instances, people have outright verbally refused to get the repair done, despite being told of the grave risks and being offered a loaner car or even a repair in their own driveways.

"We can talk to them until we're blue in the face," Martin says. "And they still don't have to take action; we can't go take their car and fix it if they don't let us."

Mazda says it's used an array of methods (listed below) to locate owners of the vehicles.   

FEDEX OVERNIGHT USPS CERTIFIED LIVE CALL campaign 1st EMAIL campaign 2nd EMAIL campaign Social media (Facebook) targeted outreach USPS 1st CLASS UPS GROUND USPS 1ST CLASS 2nd LIVE CALL campaign 3rd EMAIL campaign TEXT Message (SMS) 4th EMAIL campaign Certified Mail - USPS CERTIFIED 3rd LIVE CALL campaign USPS 1ST CLASS mailer Bi-Fold mailer Postcard mailer Barrage Mailer (5-mailers; each of a different color, one deploying each day) 4th LIVE Call campaign

Honda's Chris Martin says the best of all possible worlds would be to require people to comply with recalls before they could re-register their cars. 

He says at least ten of the people who've been killed drove their vehicles for two years after the recalls were issued. Had they been forced to get their vehicles fixed as a prerequisite for an annual registration sticker, they'd would probably be alive today, he says.

Honda has repaired or accounted for 96.18% of the vehicles on the "do not drive," list; Ford's rate is about 85%, and Mazda's is about 75%.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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