Recalls in the automotive industry are so commonplace they’re often nothing more than a footnote in the daily news. If they’re big enough, like the Takata airbag recall, then the news is everywhere. The Takata recall is so big it’s taking time to get replacement parts. Several U.S. Senators think people should be given loaner vehicles in the meantime.
Although there are rules and regulations about how automakers have to handle recalls, there’s nothing about issuing loaner vehicles. That’s a decision that’s entirely up to the automaker. The reason it’s becoming an issue now is because of the severity of the Takata recall and the number of vehicles affected.
Airbags are supposed to save lives and that’s exactly what they do when they work properly. A problem with the inflator in Takata airbags causes it to explode when it deploys sending the airbag and metal shrapnel at a person’s face. People have been injured and killed by this defect.
The recall affects 17 different automakers and is expected to involve over 37 million vehicles by the time it’s resolved. That’s a huge number of vehicles with a dangerous defect that’s going to take months to repair. The priority is on vehicles most likely to experience a problem, so older cars are getting repairs first.
Reaching consumers who own older vehicles is a particular challenge. Emails, postcards, and phone calls sometimes still don’t get results. Honda has gone so far as to send people out door-to-door in an effort to notify everyone of the problem. Once notified, there may still be a wait, which is small consolation to those driving affected vehicles.
Some companies are giving customers loaner vehicles, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey want it to be standard practice. The Senators released a report detailing what they see as a failure of the automotive industry to step up and ensure consumers are safe in their vehicles. According to the report,
“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.”
It’s clearly a dangerous and frightening issue, but it’s also a complex one. Not every recall is so life threatening, nor is it feasible to give out loaner cars to every person when the recall is this large. Some sort of prioritization would need to be made to determine which recalls were worthy of a loaner car.
The auto industry is loathe to have the government dictate that process and is trying to address the issue. The report goes on to say that out of the 17 automakers affected by the recall, only six have satisfactory loaner policies including BMW, Fiat Chrysler America, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.
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 didn’t fare well, which is why the Senators are pushing for change. Whether it comes in the form of government legislation all depends on how well automakers step up to make changes on their own.
You can check to see if your vehicle is affected by any recalls by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration site.