Last June, Honda issued a very serious warning to owners of certain Honda and Acura vehicles: do not drive them until you've had the Takata airbag inflators in those vehicles replaced.
The models in question (full list below) came equipped with Takata's "Alpha" inflator, so called because it was the company's first to use ammonium nitrate without a dessicant. As we now know, that was a fatal mistake: the ammonium nitrate in those devices can become destabilized when exposed to moisture, exploding when the airbag is deployed.
Takata's fatally flawed airbags have been linked to at least 16 deaths around the world and well over 100 injuries. They've also spawned the largest automotive recall in history.
Of the 16 deaths, ten have occurred in Honda vehicles, eight of which were equipped with Alpha inflators. In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Alpha inflators ruptured airbags upon deployment up to 50 percent of the time.
Honda describes them as "potentially very dangerous."
Renewed recall efforts
The good news is, roughly 74 percent of Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with Alpha inflators have been repaired. However, 26 percent haven't, and so, this morning Honda announced a two-part plan to beef up efforts to reach owners of the affected vehicles and convince them of the importance of having their cars fixed.
Part one of the plan involves the creation of a new task force. The 113 members of that force will be "boots on the ground" in communities where concentrations of Alpha vehicles remain highest. They'll launch programs involving "outreach through trusted community organizations, seeking the support of local leaders and door- to-door canvassing in neighborhoods".
These 113 employees are in addition to the 100 Honda staffers who are already tasked with contacting owners of affected vehicles by phone.
Part two of Honda's plan involves the rollout of a digital personal assistant. Dubbed "Ask Dave by Honda", it uses technology from IBM's Watson cognitive system to answer owners' questions and help them schedule service on their vehicles. "Ask Dave" is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at recalls.honda.com and recalls.acura.com.
No reason for delay
The list of vehicles equipped with Takata's Alpha inflators includes:
- 2001-2002 Honda Accord
- 2001-2002 Honda Civic
- 2002 Honda CR-V
- 2002 Honda Odyssey
- 2003 Honda Pilot
- 2003 Acura CL
- 2002-2003 Acura TL
If you own one of those vehicles, you can verify that it's affected by the Takata recall by visiting the Honda or Acura recall website and running a search with your vehicle identification number, or VIN.
Above all, Honda wants to remind owners about the importance of having all cars equipped with Alpha inflators serviced immediately. The fixes are free, and because dealers have replacement parts in stock, cars can be repaired quickly. (And no, those parts aren't made by Takata, which was a problem in some early recalls.)
Honda is willing to make the repair process as painless as possible by offering free towing to the nearest dealership. If owners need a rental vehicle on the day they take their car to the shop, Honda will even provide one at no charge.
None of us like taking a car in for service, but in this case, doing so could save your life.