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Takata Launches Public-Awareness Campaign for Airbag Recall

— August 12, 2015

Japanese airbag manufacturer, Takata, is set to launch a large-scale advertising campaign urging those affected by recalled airbags to schedule repair or replacement.

Bloomberg is reporting that embattled Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata is set to undergo a large-scale targeted advertising campaign urging consumers to schedule repairs and replacements for the recalled products. Labeling it the “Get the Word Out” campaign, the first phase will begin in high-humidity areas where the defect has been most likely to occur. These include Florida, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The campaign is looking to focus on digital internet advertisements, using sites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, CNN, CNBC, and the Wall Street Journal to promote high-visibility banner ads. The ads will feature large-block letters stating, “URGENT AIRBAG RECALL NOTICE: Does your airbag inflator need to be replaced?” In addition, the company says it will conduct real-time data analytics to optimize the ads’ targeted demographics, leading to the campaign’s deployment in additional geographic areas. The company is also coordinating with the Institute for Highway Safety to “propose a direct mailing to affected auto insurance customers” that is aimed at reaching 85 percent of affected customers.

Along with the outreach efforts, Takata proposed a 39-page safety testing plan that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) posted on its website Tueday. Unfortunately for consumers, 37 of the pages are blank due to what Takata claims to be containing proprietary business information. In the plan, the company states its intention to solve two major questions: whether or not the replacement airbags are safe, and if so, how long will they last? According to the plan, Takata says the study’s goal is to “inform Takata’s assessment of the service life and safety of unrecalled and replacement inflators containing phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate.” The company’s continued use of ammonium nitrate, the compound used as the propellant for the airbags’ inflators, has been highly controversial as it has been suspected to be a cause of the malfunction. No other major airbag manufacturer uses the compound as a propellant. The NHTSA allowed Takata’s request for confidentiality of data within the documents, and according to Takata spokesperson Gordon Trowbridge, the NHTSA is currently reviewing both the outreach and the testing plans.

The efforts come as part of Takata’s historical consent order agreement with the NHTSA in May which required the company to comply with the regulator’s continued investigations and safety campaigns. Although the recall list continues to grow, at least 32 million vehicles among 11 automakers contain Takata airbags, with some analysts estimating the final total of vehicles to exceed 50 million. The airbags may contain a defect that causes “over-aggressive inflation” upon deployment, having the potential to send shrapnel into the passenger cabin. At least 8 deaths and over 100 injuries have been attributed to the defect. Although it appears that the use of the propellant is related to the defect, there is no conclusive evidence as to what specifically causes the aggressive inflation to occur. NHTSA chief Michael Rosekind and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx have called the Takata recall “the most complex in U.S. auto history,” and by many measures, is the largest consumer recall ever. The company angered many on Capitol Hill last month, especially Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), when its U.S. senior vice-president Kevin Kennedy told Congress that the company was not going to establish a victim’s compensation fund. The NHTSA is considering holding a public hearing in the fall with the 11 automakers involved in the recall to discuss methods of executing repairs quicker and more efficiently.

Automotive News – Jeff Plungis

Business Insider/Reuters – David Morgan

The Detroit News – David Shepardson



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