There are still about 70 million cars in the United States equipped with Takata airbags that could prove fatal in even a minor accident, like the one that killed Huma Hanif, 17, fatally injured by shrapnel from the airbag when her Honda Civic rear-ended another car at low speed in Houston.
Airbags in older cars like Hanif’s, about 300,000 of them, are the biggest problem — they have a 50 percent chance of exploding, safety officials say.
Takata itself is not in very good shape either. It is teetering on bankruptcy and seeking a buyer. This raises the question of who takes responsibility for the airbags if Takata goes away.
Federal highway safety chief Mark Rosekind addressed that question in Detroit Wednesday, saying automakers have the “ultimate responsibility” for replacing the airbags, no matter what happens to Takata, Reuters reported.
Rosekind also said he is concerned that not enough is being done to track down more than 300,000 older cars — most of them Hondas and Acuras — that have the most dangerous Takata airbags.
Honda has said that it has made multiple mailings — as many as 20 in some cases — to owners of Hondas from the 2001 to 2003 model years, but many of the cars have been sold to new owners, raising concerns that the mailings may have gone astray.
Honda now says it is about to start conducting home visits to owners of the older cars. The company also says it is looking for new ways to convince owners of recalled cars to get them fixed. Rosekind suggested it may be necessary to take mobile repair teams into neighborhoods to make the repairs, according to Reuters.