Inflated airbagEnlarge Photo
Recalls to replace Takata's defective airbags now affect more than 14 million vehicles worldwide. If you've been following the news, you know that here in the U.S., most of those recalls have been limited to southern states. According to Detroit News, however, Honda has quietly agreed to replace airbags on all affected models, no matter where they were sold or registered -- but only if customers ask.
Honda announced its first wave of recalls in June, affecting more than two million owners of vehicles "originally sold, or ever registered in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and equipped with Takata-brand air bag inflators". California was added a month later, adding another million vehicles to the list.
The recall has been limited to southern states because initial investigations suggests that high, persistent humidity like the kind found along the U.S. Gulf Coast can wreak havoc on the ammonium nitrate used to inflate Takata's airbags. In numerous cases, the bags have ripped upon deployment, and in some instances, vehicle occupants have been pelted with shrapnel. Takata airbags have been linked to five deaths, three of which occurred in the U.S.
Honda has been criticized for under-reporting Takata airbag-related incidents, and it's been insinuated that Honda's status at Takata's biggest client may have encouraged the automaker to downplay such reports. In recent weeks, Honda has attempted to prove that it is dedicated to doing the right thing, improving transparency and giving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration more oversight of the recall process.
Now, Honda has gone one step further and told NHTSA that it will replace passenger airbags on all recalled vehicles, no matter where they might've been sold or registered. However, owners of Honda cars and trucks outside the official recall zone won't receive notices in the mail: they'll need to take the initiative to drive their vehicle to a dealer and ask that the airbags be replaced.
Honda's Chris Martin says that the process is consistent with the company's customer satisfaction procedures, even though Honda has no reason to believe that airbags in vehicles outside high-humidity areas are at risk of failure. Martin also confirmed that Honda owners in states and territories not covered by the initial recall can be reimbursed for alternative travel while their cars are being repaired.
Honda's move isn't appeasing legislators, who want answers from automakers and NHTSA about why the Takata recalls are so limited and so long overdue. In a statement we received from Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), the Senator said:
“Our highway safety agency, not Honda, should have been the first to call for this nationwide replacement of deadly airbags. NHTSA should require a nationwide recall, and should require Honda and other affected car companies to immediately announce mandatory nationwide recalls to protect American drivers.
“Three of the four known deaths that have occurred from these deadly airbags happened outside of the regional recall boundaries, which prove that this haphazard geographic safety regime doesn’t work. It’s time to send this regional recall policy to the junkyard, and protect all drivers on America’s roads."
For reference, here's the complete list of recalled Honda vehicles. If you own one of them and have questions, we encourage you to contact Honda customer service at 800-999-1009.