[WASHINGTON, DC] – Ahead of a Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security hearing to review the status of the Takata airbag recall, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) released a comprehensive report that found that eleven of the 17 automakers affected by the Takata airbag recall have unsatisfactory loaner car policies that fail to effectively protect drivers and passengers from risks associated with the continued use of vehicles with Takata airbags. Ordered by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2014, the recall of vehicles with defective Takata airbags is the largest and most complex recall in U.S. history, affecting as many as one in four cars currently on the road.
“When the wait for available parts for a repair is too long, or a consumer is unable to give up their vehicle for a repair because they need it to go to work or school, a free loaner car from the dealer can make all the difference in whether a vehicle with an unrepaired defect stays off the road, where it should be, or on the road – where it can endanger the driver, passengers, and other motorists,” Blumenthal and Markey write in the report. Given the scale and complexity of the Takata recall, “many drivers [have] no option but to drive a car with a defective Takata airbag to get to school or work while they wait for replacement parts.”
There are currently defective Takata airbags in an estimated 37 million vehicles in the United States, with an estimated 42 million vehicles expected to be affected following additional recalls through December 2019. Defective Takata airbags have been ruled responsible for at least 15 deaths in the United States.
Using Takata as a case study for a safety recall in which automakers should provide consumers with free loaner cars while they await repairs, Blumenthal and Markey launched an investigation into loaner car policies implemented by automakers and dealerships when recalls cannot be completed due to unavailable parts. The Senators found that eleven of the 17 automakers surveyed have policies that could force car owners with Takata airbags to continue driving their vehicles – despite potentially fatal defects in Takata airbags. The Senators’ full report, “Automaker Report Card: Loaner Car Policies for Consumers Affected by the Takata Airbag Recall,” is available for download here.
Blumenthal and Markey’s report concludes that BMW, Fiat Chrysler America, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota provide satisfactory loaner policies. The other eleven automakers surveyed – Daimler Trucks North America, Daimler Vans USA, Ferrari North America, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, Jaguar Land Rover North America, Mazda USA, Mercedes Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Tesla, and Volkswagen Group of America – did not take all the steps they should have to protect their consumers from the risk of death or injury. To help consumers affected by the Takata airbag recall navigate their options for keeping themselves and their families safe, Blumenthal and Markey present several recommendations, listed below.
In a January letter to Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL), Blumenthal and Markey called for a hearing on the ongoing recall, after a “do not drive” instruction was issued by the NHTSA for certain car models with high-risk Takata airbags. The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, for which Blumenthal is Ranking Member, will be holding a hearing titled, “Update on NHTSA and Automaker Efforts to Repair Defective Takata Air Bag Inflators” tomorrow, March 20, 2018. For a comprehensive history of Blumenthal and Markey’s work on this issue, see the “About the Authors” section in the report.