By Greg Deinzer, Research Director
If you are like 62% of Americans, you are aware of the largest-ever U.S. auto recall by Japanese company Takata Corporation for defective airbag systems. The recall affects tens of millions of vehicles and dozens of vehicle manufacturers/brands, and has expanded dramatically over the past six months. Findings from Morpace’s July 2016 Omnibus survey of 1,000 U.S. respondents provide consumers’ opinions and feedback on this critical concern.
According to media reports in May of this year, at least 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the airbag problem worldwide. Additionally, the recall is expected to take place in phases over the next 2-3 years, and a few auto manufacturers are still equipping their new vehicles with the type of Takata airbags that are currently being recalled. Here’s hoping the other 38% who are unaware of the recall stay off the road for the next three years.
Somewhat surprisingly, those aware of the recall have about the same impression of the auto industry as those who are unaware, with more than one-third rating it “Good” or “Excellent”, over half rating it “Fair”, and only 1-in-10 rating it “Poor” or “Very Poor.” Ratings are higher for those on the recall list and for drivers who have been notified by the manufacturer or have had their airbags replaced. Even so, one-fourth of those who heard about the recall before this survey have a somewhat lower or much lower opinion of the auto industry in general.
Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus automobiles account for over half of the vehicles mentioned by survey respondents as being on the recall list. Although 6-in-10 vehicles on the list have already been replaced, 82% of those who are still waiting for replacement airbags have not been given an estimated time frame for their repairs.
Seventy percent of those who are still waiting for replacement airbags are driving their vehicle as usual. That is, they are not taking any additional actions or precautions such as driving the vehicle less often, or not allowing anyone to sit in the front passenger seat. Likewise, in over one-fourth (28%) of pending recall replacements, the dealers or manufacturers are not providing any amenities to those who are waiting.
On the other hand, many companies are taking steps to alleviate or correct the situation by installing airbags from another supplier, providing a rental car, or deactivating or removing the airbags altogether until they can be replaced.
Some feel that mistakes happen and that recalls are inevitable. As one respondent put it, “auto manufacturers should not be blamed for the defects of one supplier.” Yet others hold vehicle manufacturers to a higher standard and expect quicker notification, an action plan, and replacement in a shorter period of time.
Many hold a more negative view—that automakers are willing to cut corners at the expense of safety. One respondent referenced an ironic fact: “a safety airbag manufacturer that manufactures unsafe equipment.” Still, in relation to the airbag recall, only 7% do not feel at least moderately safe driving their vehicle.
Consumers are split on their feelings of how Takata is handling the recall. Thirty-four percent are “Very” or “Completely Satisfied”, 33% are “Moderately Satisfied”, and 33%are “Not Very” or “Not at all satisfied.” Auto manufacturers receive higher satisfaction ratings. Almost half of respondents are “Very” or “Completely Satisfied” with the way their vehicle manufacturer is handling the recall.
This illustrates the importance of open communications by suppliers and OEMs in clearly disseminating information and warnings to the public even if your hands are tied for months or even years. In this case, and probably many others like it, the public is likely to be more forgiving when transparency is used with consumers.