Recall Madness Explodes With Defective Air Bags

While companies are being more open and honest about the flaws in their products, consumers could be left confused and indifferent to the process as they become inundated with reports — especially when it comes to dangerous air bags.

Defective parts are creating bad press and hurting the bottom line for the auto industry, so car companies are being more diligent in announcing recalls. It feels like there is almost a daily announcement of some risk of fire from bad wiring, stalling engines or the latest — air bag defects. While companies are being more open and honest about the flaws in their products, consumers could be left confused and indifferent to the process as they become inundated with reports. 

Currently the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging consumers to have air bags manufactured by Takata Corp. repaired because the air bag inflators can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are inflated. Earlier this week, the U.S. agency increased the recall to 7.8 million vehicles and covers many models from BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota. Consumers in humid areas are especially cautioned as air bags are sensitive to water vapor.

Now, the air bag recall is facing scrutiny for how it’s being handled. The AP reported that two U.S. senators, Sens. Richard Bumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, are calling on U.S. auto safety regulators to immediately issue a nationwide recall for cars with faulty air bags made by Takata. Right now, many automakers have limited the recall to the high-humidity areas in southern states with the greatest chance of a malfunctioning air bag.

According to Forbes, many companies aren’t waiting on NHTSA’s guidance and instead have issued their own urgent warnings in the face of the federal action. GM, for instance, told owners of the Pontiac Vibe, a sister vehicle to the Toyota Matrix, not to allow passengers to sit in the front seat until cars can be repaired, because of concerns about the defective airbag inflator. Honda and Toyota had previously warned their customers to take action.

It appears that right now, the air bag recall is unfocused. There’s no clear plan on how the repairs will take place or how the recall will affect new production vehicles, as Takata controls over 30 percent of the global market.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book's, told CBS News he predicts that the airbag recall will not only take years to complete but likely require Takata to seek help from its rivals. As to the overall costs, he said it's too early to estimate, "because the total number of vehicles keeps being revised, upward."

CBS News reported that affected consumers will have to wait for auto dealerships to receive replacement parts and then get training for those replacements.

"This leads to all kinds of negative consequences," executive director Jack Nerad said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. "Consumers are disappointed when they first visit the dealership. Consumers then forget or decide to forget about getting the fix done later — dealers who once had no parts now have too many. It often results in a far less-than-perfect solution and ends with lots of unfixed vehicles still on the road."

What Do You Think?

With the constant barrage of auto recalls being announced almost daily, are consumers just becoming apathetic to the warnings and notices? Should more be done to coordinate recalls and, if so, who should oversee them? How could manufacturers themselves handle recalls better? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

Check out this report on the air bag recall: 

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