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Honda pushing to ban Takata-affected vehicles

Above and beyond: Honda Australia’s efforts in recalling faulty Takata airbag units have resulted in an industry-leading 81 per cent repair rate, well above the average 40 per cent proportion.

Denial of vehicle re-registration mooted as Honda escalates Takata recall campaign

Honda logo12 Oct 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

HONDA Australia is arguing for vehicles affected by the faulty-Takata airbag inflators to be taken off the road until repair work can be applied as the brand steps up its recall campaign efforts with more visually graphic letters.

Despite an 81 per cent repair rate (527,408 inflators replaced out of about 650,000) – which is well above the industry standard of about 40 per cent – Honda is imploring its remaining customers to heed warnings and come into dealership to replace at-risk parts as soon as possible.

The brand is now pushing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to deny registration to all vehicles – not only Honda-badged cars – that are yet to have faulty Takata airbag inflators replaced, revealed Honda Australia director Stephen Collins.

“One of our discussions with the ACCC over the last few weeks … was we are really pushing for government assistance, particularly through the registration authorities, to enable or not enable re-registration or change of ownership of vehicles that have an outstanding recall applicable – not just for Honda but across the industry,” he said.

“Our request to the government and the ACCC is to do that, but that would require coordination with all the state registration authorities.

“Now we have been suggesting this for some time … I don’t think it’s insurmountable, but it will take time.

“We honestly believe that will genuinely help get a number of these old customers and old cars that we can’t find, or the customer who won’t come in, to get fixed.”

Mr Collins revealed the system was already in place in other markets around the world and would help the brand reach its targeted 100 per cent completion rate.

“The Japanese government has just, or is just about, to introduce that, and I think there are a few other markets in Europe that have introduced it for the Takata issue alone,” he said. “So it’s doable.

“I think the ACCC have been really conducive to that and open to that, but ultimately that will help us a lot to bridge the 20 per cent gap.”

Honda Australia currently has around 60,000 replacement airbag inflators in stock, with another 60,000 scheduled to land by year’s end – enough for the company to complete the outstanding number of affected units.

One of the biggest hurdles the Japanese car-maker has faced in completing all repair work has been consumer apathy towards the issue, as Honda claims it has contacted all known customers at least twice via mail, totalling one million correspondents to date.

The brand has also established a dedicated call centre for customer concerns which is open for seven days a week staffed by 27 full-time employees that can assist with queries.

Mr Collins revealed that “if there is an obstacle, we will bend over backwards to overcome that obstacle”, with a case-by-case approach to help customers in terms of towing, a loan car or accommodation if travelling great distances to reach a Honda dealership.

In addition to letters, text messages, emails and phone calls, Honda is considering an in-person approach to notifying its customers.

“We have just very recently trialled, on a pretty small scale … door-to-door visits to customers who we have written to on numerous occasions and for whatever reason have not been able to come in,” Mr Collins said.

“So we’re now trialling door-to-door, and again it’s on a very small scale and we’re trying to work out whether it’s going to work, but these are the sorts of efforts we are trying to go … because getting from 80 to 100, or close to 100, is exceptionally challenging.”

Honda will also issue a more graphic recall letter headlined by “Choosing Not to Act Could Be Deadly” that showcases the potentially deadly effects of a faulty Takata airbag deployment, and it will step-up repair work in rural parts of Australia including Mount Isa, Broome, Exmouth and Tennant Creek.

Mr Collins said it was increasingly difficult to track down the remaining outstanding cars as they have often changed hands on numerous occasions and not serviced through official Honda channels.

“This is one of our biggest hurdles making sure we have these customers in our database,” he said. “As of last week, there are still 94,325 Honda vehicles in need of repair.

“99 per cent of affected vehicles serviced throughout the Honda dealer network have now been repaired, so we are urging customers of vehicles who service outside the Honda network to have their vehicle repaired, free of charge, as soon as possible,” he said.

In addition, the remaining vehicles may already have already been taken off the road in places such as wreckers, where punters could unknowingly salvage a Takata airbag for their own repair work.

“It’s incredibly challenging because wreckers don’t have the VIN number of the cars sitting in the wrecking yard, or they’ll say ‘over in that corner is the pile of Honda parts, go for your life’,” Mr Collins said.

While Honda admits the issue is complicated and multi-faceted, Mr Collins said the brand is committed to doing everything possible to fix the Takata problem.

“We’re open to anything that will help us solve this problem and I think our dialogue, particularly in the last couple of months, with the ACCC has been very good and very open,” he said.

“I think they’ve been listening because we’ve done a lot, but at the end of the day we just want to get these things fixed and whatever helps us – insurance companies, whatever it is – what we know is that getting to 100 per cent on our own is very, very, very tough.

“We’re at 80 per cent, we need assistance from the government to get that extra 20 per cent.”

Concerned customers can head to the Honda Australia website to check if their vehicles have been fixed, or call Honda’s dedicated recall centre on 1800 789 839.

All repair work is free of charge to vehicle owners and take between two and four hours to complete.

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