Takata to launch awareness campaign on air bag recalls

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Embattled Japanese air bag manufacturer Takata Corp. plans to launch a new ad campaign and send a new mailing to the owners of millions of recalled vehicles by working with a major insurance industry group.

Exploding Takata air bags are linked to at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries. About 32 million vehicles have been recalled in the United States by 11 automakers. Just 2 million vehicles had been repaired as of Dec. 31.

Takata agreed to a sweeping consent order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in May and as part of it agreed to step up efforts to convince owners to get vehicles repaired.

The automotive supplier told NHTSA in a confidential July 17 memorandum made public Tuesday it also planned to launch a new website — www.airbagrecall.com — to help prod owners to get vehicles repaired under the “Get the Word Out” consumer outreach campaign.

The proposed ad campaign features all-block letters: “URGENT AIRBAG RECALL NOTICE: Does your airbag inflator need to be replaced?” Takata proposes to focus advertising in high-humidity areas first. Sites that would get advertising include Google, Facebook, Twitter, CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Yahoo.

The first phase would focus on Florida, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.

Takata says it will conduct real-time data analytics on the ad campaign and shift “budgets to top performing markets and demographics.”

Takata says it will work with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to “propose a direct mailing to affected auto insurance customers. ... IIHS would assist in coordinating a mailing by insurers that would encourage affected policyholders to respond to the recalls.”

NHTSA has to approve the efforts. A spokesman for the agency, Gordon Trowbridge, said it is still reviewing the plans. Takata also filed a 39-page proposed testing plan to find the root cause of the problems, but it deemed nearly all of it confidential.

Last month, Takata Vice President Kevin Kennedy told Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, that the company will not create a fund similar to one established by General Motors Co. to compensate victims of its faulty ignition switches. Blumenthal had suggested such a fund be created.

NHTSA is exercising unprecedented authority to coordinate the record-setting recall of about 32 million vehicles in the United States linked to defective Takata air bags. The safety agency is considering whether to hold a public hearing this fall with the 11 automakers involved in the recall to talk about issues and ways of speeding up repairs.