Reader Question: Recall Incentives?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

David asks: What incentives are behind automotive recalls? I keep getting letters and calls pestering me about airbag recalls for my old Honda Fit and Subaru Forester. The pestering makes me suspicious. It seems improbable that Honda and Subaru are strictly altruistic about their airbags. I am also skeptical that their airbags have ever actually harmed anyone. No Honda or Subaru has ever harmed me or anyone I know. All they do is provide excellent automotive value, not death on wheels.

My reply: Recalls fall into two categories, mandatory (government ordered, involving a defect that affects the safety or emissions of the vehicle) and those issued by a manufacturer to correct a (minor) problem.

The airbag recall is a government-mandated recall affecting multiple manufacturers (i.e., car companies, including Subaru and Honda, among many others) who bought defective air bags from a supplier called Takata.

These bags can harm/kill you – hence the recall.

The interesting thing is that even though these bags are known to be dangerous, the government merely requires that owners be notified – not that the bags actually be replaced or even disabled. In fact, the government forbids disabling them – even for the time it takes to schedule service to get the defective bags replaced.

It tells you something about the government’s actual “concern” for our “safety.”

That said, if I owned a car “affected” by this recall, I absolutely would get the bags replaced. The danger is real – and serious.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I disabled the airbags on my Corolla a couple of years ago when this information first came out. You can unplug them right at the igniter and it doesn’t bring up an alarm so it still passes the annual saaaaaaafety check.


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