By now, the Takata airbag recall involving Honda vehicles in Malaysia is a rather well known issue – or rather we thought it is. As it turns out, quite a number of drivers and owners have not responded to the nationwide recall of what is now the largest automotive recall in the entire industry’s history.

And it’s not for the lack of trying on Honda Malaysia’s side, either. By July this year, the company has issued more than 240,000 letters to customers, sent 35,000 emails to owners, phoned more than 2,000 customers and sent SMS messages to more than 126,000 customers.

On top of all this, it has also actively placed flyers on affected models that are parked in public areas, in hope that they would send their cars in. Most recently, Honda Malaysia stepped up its efforts to deploy staff to go door-to-door to approach affected customers. The company is also working closely with the Road Transport Department to approach current owners of affected vehicles based on JPJ data.

As a recap, Honda Malaysia issued a series separate recalls over the matter: in May, June and July 2015, and again in May and June 2016. In total, approximately 264,000 Honda vehicles require replacement front driver airbag inflators, and around 273,000 models need new passenger airbag inflators.

Models affected include the Honda Accord (2003-2011), City (2003-2013), Civic (2001-2011), Civic Hybrid (2003, 2007-2012), CR-V (2002-2011, 2013), Freed (2009-2011), Insight (2011-2013), Jazz (2003-2007, 2009-2013), Jazz Hybrid (2012-2013), Odyssey (2004-2008) and Stream (2003-2005, 2007-2013).

To handle the unprecedented bulk of the product recall, Honda Malaysia introduced several measures. For a start, all authorised service centres in the country were instructed to focus 50% of its resources and capacity to airbag inflator replacement tasks. This concerns safety after all, it should not be taken lightly.

Next, the company set up Service Central Hubs (SCH) and Mobile Hubs (MH) to replace airbags for affected cars. This was done to help alleviate Honda dealers’ limited service capacities for Takata airbag inflator replacement activity, and to make it more convenient for customers to reach servicing venues.

Three temporary hubs (northern, central and southern) have been operating seven days a week (except public holidays) since August 1, 2016. These static facilities are then supplemented by several mobile hubs that operate at a series of locations, including fuel service stations, shopping malls and the company’s own Honda Family Road Trip venues.

Mobile teams then include teams that go door-to-door to approach affected customers, as well as to make arrangements for replacement activities on-site where necessary, if customers are genuinely unable to proceed to a dealership/hub for the replacement job. There was even a compensation offer of RM50 per day for “loss of use of car” for affected cars waiting for airbag replacement. This ran from July 28 to August 31 to get customers to take notice.

Click to enlarge product recall process flow.

Mobile teams were also deployed to used car dealers to check the status of used Honda cars being sold and, if required, the airbag inflators will be changed immediately to ensure that the airbag inflators in the affected used Honda cars are replaced properly before they are sold to new owners. Buyers of used Honda cars are also advised to check their vehicle status at www.productrecall.honda.com.my. Even grey import or “reconditioned” Honda models are covered.

By mid-August 2016, Honda Malaysia announced that parts availability for the driver front airbag inflator has reached 100%, so there will be no more waiting for affected cars for the crucial driver’s airbag inflator replacement. However, due to the global shortage of passenger front airbag inflators, the stock count stands at a respectable 70% availability as of December 2016.

The company assures its customers that it is doing everything in its capacity to meet the demand for replacement airbag inflators.

With all this done, the only thing left is for the drivers and owners of affected vehicles to respond to the recall and send their cars in. With cases as severe as this (a ruptured inflator may cause serious injuries and even death, as previously reported – right here in Malaysia, no less), you’d expect those affected to be lining up, right? But that has not been the case.

As of December 2016, Honda Malaysia announced that despite all its considerable efforts (and the stock availability standing at a full 100%) to expedite recall activities, it has only managed to replace 71% of affected driver front airbag inflators, with a large number of affected cars yet to respond to the recall. The completion ratio for passenger airbag inflator replacements stood at 50% as of end-November.

Why? Aside from those who are genuinely unaware of the recall, the reasons given by those who do know, but have yet to act on it will surprise you. These include, “oh it’s my mum’s car; my sister is driving it; I’ve used the car for 10 years without issues, so why should I bother?” Ah yes, all “legit” reasons, right?

Others, meanwhile, have slightly more valid concerns, such as not having the time to do so, or even the worry that there will be major work involved in replacing the inflators, which may scuff or damage their car interiors. Well, the central and mobile hubs should help the former concern, while Honda Malaysia’s assurance that all service centres and hubs are staffed by trained Honda associates should serve the latter.

So, it now falls to affected drivers and owners to respond. Not sure if you’re among those affected? Check it. If you have a friend or colleague with the affected Honda models, it’s also good to ask if they’ve checked just to be safe.

Vehicle owners can check their vehicles’ product recall status at www.productrecall.honda.com.my or call Honda Malaysia’s toll free number at 1-800-88-2020 or visit any Honda authorised dealers. The most convenient way, as it almost always is, is to go the online route.

On www.productrecall.honda.com.my, all you’re asked to do is to enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to check if it’s involved in any of Honda Malaysia’s active recall campaigns. The VIN number can be found on a blue plate located at either your vehicle’s passenger side centre pillar or engine bay firewall.

Once that’s done, the site will immediately check if your car requires airbag inflator replacements, be it the driver or passenger side inflator, or both. For cases where one of the two required jobs have been completed, the system will show an updated recall status (as shown here).

The next step is to arrange for an appointment. On the website, you can select your preferred service centre – or the central hubs, which are equally equipped and capable – and the centralised system will then show the specific centre’s exact stock availability of replacement airbag inflators. No more guessing around if the service centres have the parts in stock – it’s all clearly shown here.

From here, you can submit your details and set an appointment at your earliest convenience. Come the day itself, the replacement work will then take just 20 minutes for the driver’s side, and up to 45 minutes for the passenger side. Should your car require replacements for both sides, the work will be done concurrently, so the whole process will take no more than 45 minutes to complete.

Once done, the technician will leave a small paint mark inside the glovebox to be used as an easy visual indicator showing that the recall work has been completed, which may come in handy when you want to sell your vehicle later on. It will all be recorded in Honda Malaysia’s centralised system too, of course.

So there you have it, folks, a simple and short process through and through. Honda Malaysia has done all it can to sort out this global recall. It’s now up to the owners to send their cars in. It’s for your own safety – no better reason than that.