It started out large enough to be noticed, but not so large that it could be considered unmanageable. What it became, however, was not only the largest recall in the history of the automotive industry, but the largest product recall in consumer history.
The first mention of the Takata airbag recall on this blog happened in a short post in August of 2014. Ten million vehicles; mostly Hondas, were recalled because evidence suggested that the airbags may be faulty and could detonate during a collision. The resulting explosion would fill the car’s cabin with shrapnel that could injure or kill the occupants.
Seven automobile manufacturers reported that they would begin recalling vehicles hundreds of thousands at a time. Honda was hit particularly hard as the manufacturer was forced to send recall notices to just over two million of its customers.
By June of 2015 the number of recalled vehicles reached a staggering 34 million; nearly one in seven cars seen on an American roadway. Takata admitted that it had known about the fault for over a decade and engaged in an active effort to hide it from regulators and the general public.
The logistics of dealing with such a recall defy comprehension. Simply identifying all of the recalled vehicles would take weeks or months; not to mention the time necessary to manufacture 34 million replacement airbag systems.
In our June 2015 post on the topic, we predicted that in a car-centered society, most drivers would simply continue driving their vehicles and just hope that their airbag never deployed. For many, taking their cars off the road for months while waiting for a service reservation slot to open up was just not realistic.
Unfortunately, we were far too accurate in our prediction. 17-year old high school junior Huma Hanif of Texas died last month as the result of a faulty Takata airbag when a relatively minor rear-end collision triggered the device in her 2002 Honda Civic. She wasn’t speeding and records indicated that she wasn’t on her cell phone at the time of the incident.
By all accounts, she should have been able to get out of her car, exchange insurance information with the other driver, and go about her day with nothing hurt except, perhaps, her pride. Instead, the inflator on her car’s airbag exploded. Shrapnel was sent flying into the car’s cabin and one piece hit her in the neck. She died just a few moments later. According to a witness to the simple “fender bender,” Huma “actually got out of the car, took a step and fell, [and] collapsed. She had a deep laceration on the side of her throat.”
Make no mistake – Takata airbags are still killing drivers.
Because this recall affects so many vehicles, we strongly urge our readers to visit safercar.gov to run your VIN. Please don’t leave your safety, or your family’s safety, in the hands of the vehicle manufacturers or the postal system to get a recall notice to you. And, if your vehicle is subject to this recall, fight to ensure that your car or truck is repaired as quickly as possible.