Honda to kick off ad campaign urging repairs of defective Takata air bags

Honda to kick off ad campaign urging repairs of defective Takata air bags
This undated photo provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows a crash test of a 2002 Honda CR-V, one of the models subject to a recall to repair faulty air bags. (Associated Press)

Honda will initiate a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in an attempt to persuade owners of vehicles with defective Takata air bags to take them in for repair.

Beginning Monday, the company will place color advertisements in more than 120 U.S. newspapers, and will air 30-second radio announcements in more than 110 markets.


The campaign, which identifies the models and years of the affected Hondas, will be conducted in English and Spanish, the company said, and will be backed by sponsored Facebook posts that will appear in account owners' personal timelines.

"This advertising campaign is one component of a multifaceted, nationwide effort to identify and contact affected owners," a Honda spokesperson said. "We are continuing efforts to reach owners in all 50 states."

Honda is among the automakers to have been plagued by the defective air bags, which particularly in hot, persistently humid areas are subject to failure.

The air bags have been the subject of an expanding recall movement. Honda at first called on owners of vehicles in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to bring in their cars for repair.

The company later expanded this "safety improvement campaign" to include Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and California.

The defective air bags, made by the Japanese firm Takata, are equipped with inflators that rely on an explosive charge and can deploy with too much force and send metal shrapnel into the vehicle's cabin. The faulty air bags have been linked to multiple deaths and are responsible for recalls of more than 20 million vehicles globally.

The vehicles affected include those made by Honda -- Takata's biggest customer -- as well as Nissan, Subaru, Ford, Chrysler, BMW, Mitsubishi and Mazda.

Honda has confirmed three deaths and 52 injuries in the U.S. caused by driver's side Takata air bag inflator ruptures.

Automakers recalled about 60 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, almost double the previous record set a decade earlier. But as many as 35 million of these vehicles have not been repaired, according to some estimates, even though many have defects that have been linked to multiple fatalities.

Honda said in making the announcement that it has contracted with additional air bag inflator suppliers to meet customer demand, and believes it can complete the repairs before summer. Customers whose cars cannot be repaired at once, Honda said, will be supplied with loaner or rental cars, at no charge.

Honda declined to say how many vehicles with problematic air bags have been repaired, and how many still need to be repaired.

An estimated 6.2 million Honda and Acura vehicles in the U.S. have been subject to the Takata air bag recall.

Many of the vehicles are older -- the affected models date back as far as 2001 -- and may no longer be owned by their original buyers.

The company said in making the announcement that one-third of all recalled vehicles "are never repaired."


This year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined Honda $70 million for failing to report deaths and injuries involving its vehicles in a timely manner. The fine was the largest ever levied on an automaker by the safety agency.

Auto consumer activist Louis Lombardo of Care for Crash Victims applauded the move but wondered how effective it would be if the campaign depends upon consumers reading newspapers, knowing their cars' vehicle identification numbers, and having easy access to nearby dealerships.

"It's a step in the right direction," Lombardo said. "But really reaching all these people with a message that is compelling is difficult."

Multiple federal investigations into the expanding Takata air bag problem are underway. Last month, NHTSA began levying fines against the air bag company for not being more forthcoming with pertinent information about how and why its air bags have failed.

Honda and Takata also face multiple class-action lawsuits on behalf of consumers injured or killed by defective air bags.

Twitter: @misterfleming