Our Perspective: Alpha Inflators Remain a Great Danger

3/7/2017 1:00:00 PM

Honda continuously looks for new ways to reach vehicle owners who have not yet replaced the original "Alpha" Takata inflators found in certain 2001 to 2003 Honda and Acura vehicles. These inflators are potentially very dangerous.

Among our newest approach is hiring a team of people who will canvas neighborhoods door-to-door throughout the country. In addition, we have activated the industry's first digital virtual agent, utilizing IBM Watson technology to provide 24-hour recall information to our customers.

These "Alpha," inflators are a critical issue because, in June 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that "Alpha" inflators had demonstrated a rupture rate as high as 50 percent in testing. This rupture rate represents an alarming risk of injury or death for drivers of vehicles with the original "Alpha" Takata inflators – so-called because they are found in the first vehicles to be equipped with Takata inflators containing the non-desiccated propellant ammonium nitrate.

Tragically, Honda has confirmed ten deaths in our vehicles due to ruptures of Takata airbag inflators in the United States, and all but two of these involved "Alpha" inflators.

A list of the specific 2001-2003 models that may be equipped with recalled Takata PSDI "Alpha" driver airbag inflators can be found here.

While significant progress has been made in repairing "Alpha" vehicles, with over 74 percent fixed to date, for a variety of reasons, a significant number of owners of these vehicles have not yet sought the free recall repairs.

Here are the key things I want every owner of an unrepaired "Alpha" vehicle to know:

  1. All recall repairs are free.
  2. The only place your "Alpha" vehicle should be driven is to an authorized dealer for repair. If you're uncomfortable or unable to drive your car in for repair, we will pay to tow it (even a non-running vehicle) to the nearest dealer for free.
  3. We have plenty of replacement parts, all from alternative suppliers, not Takata. There should be no parts-related delay in the repair of your vehicle.
  4. If you need it, Honda will provide you with a free loaner or rental car on the day of your vehicle's repair.
  5. Please don't delay. Everyone is busy, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but this repair could save your life!

Honda continues to expand its efforts to reach owners of unrepaired "Alpha" vehicles and motivate them to take immediate action. On top of the millions of outreach attempts to these owners by mail, email, SMS text messages and phone calls, Honda recently activated two significant new initiatives:

New Dedicated “Alpha” Field Staff

In addition to the over 100 dedicated "Alpha" staff already working in our Customer Service call center, making daily outbound calls to "Alpha" owners, we have begun the process of hiring 113 new people to work on the ground in local communities across the United States. These new positions will work in each community where "Alpha" owners live to determine the best methods to reach those owners. This could include outreach through trusted community organizations, seeking the support of local leaders and door- to-door canvassing in neighborhoods. Many of these new staff are already hard at work, developing tailored community outreach plans.

24-hour Digital Virtual Agent Responds to Recall Questions

While our Customer Service offices operate during extended hours seven days a week, they are not open 24 hours a day. To assist with customer questions outside of business hours, Honda collaborated with IBM's Watson cognitive system to create the automotive industry's first digital virtual agent, dubbed "Ask Dave by Honda®." "Dave" is short for "Digital Assisted Virtual Engineer." Visitors to the Honda and Acura recall websites (recalls.honda.com and recalls.acura.com) can click on the "Ask Dave" button to activate the virtual assistant, which can respond to many recall-related questions with the best available response in support of visitors' needs. While "Dave" can't replace a live conversation for every situation, we hope that it will help facilitate recall repairs and provide a more efficient experience for our customers.

Honda remains committed to taking additional steps and seeking new solutions to locate the owners of "Alpha" vehicles and complete the replacement of or account for 100% of the defective inflators. The safety of our customers remains our top priority, and we will not rest until this matter is fully resolved. If you know of anyone with an affected vehicle, please share this perspective with them.  Thank you.

Bruce Smith
Senior Vice President
Parts, Service, Technical Operations American Honda Motor Co., Inc.