Honda has built an incredible reputation for itself over the years. They make dependable, affordable, and long-lasting vehicles that are also attractive and easy to maintain. Their vehicles are the first car for many peoples’ children, the hand-me-down car for teenagers headed off to college, and the car you’ve urged your elderly parents to downsize into. So what happens when a major and life-saving part of their cars is found to be defective? Recall notices go out to millions of vehicle owners, Honda loses money, and Honda’s safety features are doubted; that’s what happens.
For nearly three years, there have been news stories circulating about the massive recall of airbags produced by Takata. Tens of millions of recall notices have been sent to owners regarding a faulty inflator and propellant device within the airbag, impacting late model Honda and Acura vehicles. In the event of an impact, the airbag has the potential to deploy incorrectly and spray metal shards. In the very beginning, only a couple different vehicles were affected by the issue, however, over the past couple of months the recall has spread like wildfire. However, the highest number of recalls seem to be amongst Honda models made between 2000-2010.
Honda and Takata are both in hot water for a myriad of reasons; the first being that there are claims that they’ve known about the defective air bags for over ten years. Honda has had a stellar reputation for the high quality of their vehicles for many years, and are denying any prior knowledge. However, Takata’s efforts aren’t helping the charges against Honda, as they keep coming up with different stories about how the defect got past them for so many years. There have been dozens of claims from Takata, each claiming something entirely different about how the defect happened.
Upon first contact with Takata, they released a statement claiming that the propellant defect happened as a result of where they’d been stored. They said that the propellant had been mishandled, as well, thus passing the buck to the assembly line engineers in their plants. Soon after this statement, they said the issues were the result of the weather in which the propellant had been stored, and the amount of humidity. There have been several other ridiculous excuses from Takata since the recall was announced, and reports show evidence that they were aware of the issues.
Initially, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was willing to agree with Takata that the airbags were dysfunctional as a result of high humidity in certain areas. In those specific areas, the airbags were recalled. It was later discovered that malfunctions were happening in areas outside of those regions, so the NHTSA issued a nationwide recall, to which Takata was resistant to respond. The NHTSA was also under fire for slow response to the first claims of defective airbags, so they were quick to push for the recall to spread across the nation. Still, Takata tried to resist.
While it may seem as though Honda had very little, or nothing to do with the airbag issues, they have been the hardest hit. There have been over thirty injuries as a result of the defective airbags, two of which resulted in deaths. Honda has issued several statements since the story of the recall broke, each assuring customers that they are aware of the issues, are working hard to fix them, and that the airbag issue will be fixed without cost to the owner. As a company, they’ve seemingly made every effort to reassure customers that they remain deeply committed to their standard of safety.
No matter what statements the Honda Automotive Company issues, they’re still having a hard time. While they should be riding high, with a new vehicle that is selling well and a remodel of some of the most popular models in their lineup, they’re actually losing money. However, air bags come at a rather large cost and multiplied by over 25 million vehicles, they’re unable to claim their usual success. They’ve posted a loss in profits of nearly twenty percent for the final quarter of last year, a massive hit for the Japanese automaker with intense roots in America.
So where does Honda go from here? Where do all of the automakers, affected by this recall, go from here? With massive amounts of money being spent to remedy the situation, what happens to automakers without Honda’s success ratings? We have a reasonable expectation of safety when we get behind the wheel of our car, so what has Takata done to shatter that expectation?