In a rare partnership, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has teamed up with Honda to warn about 30,000 Florida drivers that they are putting their lives at risk if they do not get their airbags fixed.
"It has reached a level of risk we can't ignore and we need customers to come in immediately," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin. The company is asking drivers to go directly to any Honda dealership where it will replace the part for free.
There is a 50 percent chance that certain Honda and Acura models built from 2001 to 2003, which include Civics, CR-Vs, Accords, Odysseys, Pilots as well as the Acura 3.2TL and 3.2CL, will explode when the airbag deploys, even in the case of a minor fender bender. So far, about 70 percent of the inflators have been replaced nationwide, Martin said.
More than 150 people have been hurt and 11 people killed in the U.S. as a result faulty airbag inflators built by Japan-based Takata Corp. A California grandmother was killed just a few weeks ago after the airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic exploded in a crash.
Over the summer, a 27-year-old Tampa woman was sprayed with shrapnel but survived after the airbag exploded in her 2004 Honda Accord during a minor fender bender.
The defective inflators are part of the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, impacting nearly one in four vehicles on the road today.
The vehicles most at risk, however, have been under recall since about 2008 and are located in high-humidity states, including Florida, Texas and Southern California. The company said it has issued about 20 recall notifications to get those drivers to bring in their vehicle to any authorized Honda or Acura car dealership, where a mechanic will replace the part for free.
Recall repairs for older cars have been a trouble spot for the auto industry. A congressional report released over the summer stated that auto manufacturers have trouble contacting those owners — especially in the case of a resale — and that they are less likely to fix the problem.
Therefore, Honda and Acura have asked the state for help in crosschecking VIN and registration information to better target those drivers.
"As far as I know this is the first time a major manufacturer has reached out for help with a recall," said DHSMV spokeswoman Beth Frady. She noted that Honda paid for the notifications and state resources used in the partnership. The notices were sent out last month but both agencies issued a news release this week in an attempt to raise awareness.
"The more traction we get the more lives we can save," Frady said.
Contact Alli Knothe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @KnotheA.