Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Takata Suit Settled for More Than Half a Billion Dollars

Takata Suit Settled for More Than Half a Billion Dollars

It was the recall that rocked the world. When it was found that nearly 16 million vehicles might be equipped with faulty air bags, tens of millions of car owners worldwide wondered the same thing: “Could it be my car?”

As it turned out, the affected vehicles were Toyotas, Subarus, BMWs, and Mazdas … so that “is it mine” could have applied to countless people across the world. Now the people who may be affected by the problem could be receiving a check for up to $500. That is part of a settlement reached last week that says carmakers will cough up more than half a billion (with a B) dollars. Sure, the attorneys will get a decent chunk of that money, but then consumers will be compensated using a sliding scale. How much and when have not yet been worked out, but early reports say many could get cash payouts.

In addition to attorney’s fees and customer payouts, the cash will go toward awareness programs aimed at getting more consumers to bring their cars in to be fixed. Many people – numbers vary – simply ignore recall warnings, failing to get the vehicles fixed and putting themselves – as well as countless other drivers – at severe risk in the process. This applies to the airbag situation as well.
To date, apparently, only about 30 percent of Toyota and Subaru drivers have brought their cars in to have the airbags replaced with safe models. And only one out of five Mazda and BMW owners have actually had their vehicles fixed. Officials with both the automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are flummoxed. They know the danger, and they have widely reported on the dangers … but fewer than one in three are actually responding.

Which begs another potentially ominous question: what will the owners of vehicles not involved in the settlement do? That includes owners of various Ford, General Motors or Nissan models which were part of the Takata recall but not the settlement.

The fact that many people are not responding to the recall has officials worried. Eleven people have already been killed, and nearly 200 people have been injured by the airbags, which explode, sending shrapnel rocketing through the passenger compartment. Paying for the recall has been massively difficult for Takata, and the company is also dealing with cascading public relations crises related to the issue. Headline after headline connects Takata with dangerous airbags, and the company is struggling to get past the bad news. That, thanks to unresponsive owners, more people might die could make it all even worse.

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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