Of all the manufacturers involved in the massive Takata airbag crisis, nobody has been as hard hit as Honda and the company is taking extraordinary steps to repair not just the cars potentially involved, but also its reputation.
There have been six deaths worldwide linked to faulty inflators that could explode during airbag deployment in a crash (from speeds as low as 20 km/h) and spray shrapnel into the cabin; and all have come in Honda vehicles. The recall involves millions of vehicles but Honda vehicles account for a large percentage of the total (over 6 million in North America alone).
The crisis has already hit the Honda executive team, with President and CEO Takanobu Ito announcing he would step down in 2015. Now the U.S. division of the company is undertaking an expensive advertising campaign to urge owners of Honda and Acura models to immediately visit company websites or call toll-free numbers to check for outstanding recalls on their vehicles and to attend their dealerships as soon as possible, although it does not specifically mention the massive airbag recall.
“The goals of this campaign are to save lives and prevent injuries,” said John Mendel, Executive Vice President of the Automobile Division of American Honda Motor Co., in a release “These ads are a strong call to action from our company designed to break through the clutter, grab the attention of customers driving affected vehicles, and urge that they get required repairs as soon as possible.
“Honda hopes that this new consumer information campaign will bolster our existing and continuing efforts to reach our customers and maximize the vehicle repair completion rates associated with recalls to replace Takata airbag inflators,” he added.
The multimillion dollar campaign will start in 120 newspapers and 30-second radio spots in 110 markets that reach the high-impact areas of the recall (11 states and territories — Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — exhibiting the humid conditions that could trigger the explosive conditions). It will gradually expand nationwide.
The recall of some 25 million vehicles (17 million in North America) from 10 manufacturers has been hindered by lack of replacement parts, though that is slowly being overcome. It is estimated that only 2 million vehicles have been returned to North American dealerships for the warranty work, with Honda stating that 14 percent of its recalled vehicles have been returned.