Honda executive Rick Schostek has told the United States Congress that the carmaker failed to properly inform National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of some crashes in which Takata airbags exploded and to provide customers of the dangers that some models present.
Schostek also admitted that Honda still has no knowledge of the extent of the issue, although he said that the carmaker is working to find out and to make repairs as soon as possible. He remarked that he understands the confusion of consumers on whether they have to get their vehicle repaired.
Schostek generally took responsibility for the carmaker’s role in the airbag crisis, saying that Honda is willing to cooperate with regulators and consumers and would even offer loaner vehicles to those who can’t get their airbag replaced quickly due to parts shortages.
In contrast, another Honda executive and NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman gave defensive responses during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. U.S.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., compared Honda’s predicament to General Motors’ failure to call back faulty ignition switches for over a decade, saying that the matters can be partly blamed to “too many lawyers …trying to avoid litigation.” The Senate hearing came two days after NHTSA called on carmakers to expand the regional recall campaign into a national one and to include driver-side airbags.
NHTSA had said that only airbags in states and territories with extremely high humidity – like Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- were prone to rupture, which could explode metal fragments toward vehicle occupants.
Back then, NHTSA said a regional recall is enough and a wider campaign might not be needed. Friedman said if there is no information about a reasonable risk outside the affected areas, he cannot compel carmakers to expand a recall outside those locations.