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Recent comments from a US regulatory agency indicate that independent repairers may be called upon to install replacement airbags as part of the Takata recall.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario -- November 4, 2015 -- The biggest recall in the history of the automobile industry continues to hang over the sector. Getting this recall done will take time and effort. Recently the US-based National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) took an unprecedented step when executives suggested the organization may call upon collision repair centres to help get the recall order accomplished.

As it is, some 23.4 million air bag inflators have been recalled on 19.2 million vehicles sold by 12 auto and truck makers. This represents as much as 10 percent of the entire auto fleet in North America. Getting all this work done could be a serious strain on the dealership network. So no wonder the idea of getting collision repair shops to do some of this work has been floated by the NHTSA.

Should Canada follow a similar policy? In comments to Collision Repair magazine last week, Transport Canada officials suggested the use of collision repair facilities to help achieve the recall is an option. In a more recent conversation, LeanneJeffries, Director of Collision Programs at Automotive Industries Association of Canada, suggested there is broad support for such a policy in the industry.

She noted she brought the idea up at a recent AIA meeting. Those around the table, including senior executives from many of the large banner, network and franchise collision repair organizations, seemed agreeable, she said.

“I was in the most recent AIA Collision Council meeting. I brought up the question of helping out on the recall with those on the council as a way to gauge the reaction. In general, they seemed open to the idea of helping with the installations, as it could open the door to customers who have not had an accident. This would also help a lot of drivers get back on the road with replacement, and safe, airbags,” said Jeffries. “Members of the AIA Collision Council were open to the idea of discussing how they can help.”

Of course, there would be details to hammer out. “Obviously there would be a cost for this,” said Jeffries. She also noted that, “The air bags likely need scanning and calibration done at the dealer with a factory scan tool. But collision repairers could do the heavy lifting to have them installed.”

As it stands, the NHTSA is prioritizing the replacement of the bags. This defect seems to occur more frequently in humid climates, so vehicles in the most humid places will be repaired first. Cars that also need side airbags (as well as front airbags) installed will also get priority The bottleneck right now is around the supply of replacement bags. But the replacements have started to flow according to NHTSA execs. As that flow picks up the bottleneck is expected to shift to the number of facilities that can perform the replacement, hence the comments last week.

The National Automobile Dealers Association has pointed out that there are legal questions outstanding—Takata contracts say the work has to be done at dealership—but the NHTSA officials suggested these issues can be dealt with.


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