Honda Australia says it has replaced “95 per cent” of its potentially deadly Takata airbags that can spray shrapnel when deployed in a crash – the highest clearance rate so far among mainstream brands.
However, Honda remains alarmed by the refusal of thousands of owners to get their cars fixed – free of charge – and has again called on authorities in Victoria to join other states with a registration ban on un-rectified vehicles.
“We door-knocked every single person up to four times on critical airbags,” said Honda Australia boss Stephen Collins. “On all the doors we knocked, 70 per cent of the time we found the car.”
However, of those vehicles that were located, only one-third of owners booked the car in for repair, a third booked the car in but were a “no show” at the dealership, and a third refused to get the recall work done.
“We document what everyone says: ‘I’m too busy, no-one sits in the passenger side any way, the dealer’s going to try to sell me something’,” said Mr Collins. “There are a whole variety of reasons which are very frustrating but at the end of the day we persevere.”
The Honda boss says he doesn’t understand why some owners would continue to take the risk of driving with a faulty airbag; even passenger airbags can kill other occupants in the vehicle.
“It makes me feel terrible,” said Mr Collins. “Clearly we’ve been promoting the level of risk, which is very high, and I think we’ve gone to extraordinary efforts and we continue to go to extraordinary efforts. But at the end of the day you can’t drag someone who doesn’t want to come in.”
Honda repeated its earlier calls for the Victorian Government to ban the registration renewal on cars that have failed to have the recall work done despite repeated attempts. After NSW joined other states this year, Victoria remains the only state without the rego ban even though it has the second-highest number of affected cars.
“I think it’s extremely disappointing,” said Mr Collins. “NSW has the most outstanding (faulty airbags) by a fair way, but Victoria has a lot of vehicles outstanding and I think it’s a relatively simple measure that is not that difficult to implement. There’s way too much talking going on and not enough action.”
Honda is still trying to locate 34,000 airbag inflators in 26,000 cars, including 4200 of the most volatile Alpha type that have a 50:50 chance of deploying with deadly force. Later this year Honda will add a further 46,000 cars, each with one faulty inflator of the Beta type.
Some customers have been led to believe the Beta type Takata airbag is less dangerous, however the one fatality and one serious injury in Australia documented so far involved the Beta type Takata airbag.
At its peak Honda was replacing 8500 Takata airbags a week, now it’s down to 300 replacements a week.
If Honda and other car makers don’t achieve a 100 per cent clearance rate, they will not be fined by the Federal Government.
“Under the mandatory recall … we won’t be fined,” said Mr Collins. “In the end manufacturers can apply to the ACCC for exemptions and then it’s the ACCC’s decision as to whether you’ve done enough or done the adequate number of contacts and effort to receive the exemption.”
The car industry has also employed an outside firm to recover faulty airbags from junked cars stored in wrecking yards.
“As part of the recall, we as an industry have a company who has a team of people searching through wrecking yards finding used airbags, taking them out of the system,” he said. “At the end of the day our focus still remains to try and get them done. That’s our total focus.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling