As if being behind the wheel of a car with a potentially defective air bag wasn’t bad enough; there may be a shortage of replacement parts. As a result of the massive 7.5 million vehicle recall, the auto insurance industry has been closely and nervously monitoring the issue since it was first brought to light.
The main scrutiny has been focused on the Takata Corporation, Japanese manufacturer of the defective air bags, which have faulty inflators that can explode, hurling shrapnel at drivers and passengers; or that can fail to deploy the air bag, itself, in a crash. To make an already serious problem worse, the Takata Corporation recently announced that a parts shortage could mean an additional two-year wait for replacement of air bags in affected vehicles.
On November 13, 2014, Japanese automaker Honda Motor Corp. expanded its recall related to the defective air bags after hearing of a Malaysian driver’s death linked to the air bags in question earlier in the year. Unfortunately, until all faulty inflators are switched out of all at-risk vehicles, this kind of accident is likely to continue to occur. And, now, given the announcement that the Japanese supplier could need as long as two years to produce enough replacement parts to service every affected model in America, U.S. drivers could expect quite a wait to get their dangerous vehicles repaired under the recall.
Ironically, if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) succeeds in making the recall campaign wider spread, it could increase the timeline considerably. As it stands, getting people to bring their vehicles to dealership service departments isn’t easy. While it only takes about an hour to exchange the faulty inflators, despite the extensive national publicity, documents received by the NHTSA from the eight affected automakers show only 437,936 vehicles have been repaired out of a total of about 7.5 million. And, because potentially dangerous models requiring new parts can go back as far as 2000, tracking down the cars’ current owners have been difficult as well.
The issue has even reached Capitol Hill, as mounting government pressure to push for a quicker resolution included a recent Senate hearing. In response, the Takata Corporation is currently building about 300,000 replacement inflators per month at its Monclova, Mexico plant. Furthermore, the company plans to boost production up to an estimated 450,000 units by January, 2015, with additional production being moved to Freiburg, Germany to meet needs sooner.
If you’ve been notified that your vehicle may be affected by the Takata air bags, don’t wait. Check with your nearby dealership to set up an appointment, just in case they have the parts available.