Honda Ad Campaign: There's a Recall, Get Your Car Fixed ASAP

Despite Size of Recall, Automaker Relying on Regional Buys

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American Honda on Monday will launch an ad campaign urging owners to fix vehicles recalled for Takata airbag inflators at risk of exploding during a crash.

Full-page ads will run in more than 120 newspapers, and 30-second radio spots will air in more than 110 regional markets, the automaker said.

Honda will also serve customized ads to Facebook users who own recalled Honda and Acura vehicles under the campaign. Honda spokesman Chris Martin said the automaker provided data identifying owners of the recalled vehicles to be cross-referenced with Facebook data about its users to target the ads to affected owners using Facebook's ad-targeting service.

The ad blitz comes amid mounting scrutiny from U.S. auto safety regulators on the speed of repairs being made on the roughly 17 million vehicles made by 10 automakers that have been recalled in the United States for suspect Takata airbags since 2008. Some 25 million vehicles have been recalled globally over that period, Reuters estimates.

Exploding Takata airbag inflators have been linked to at least six deaths and dozens of injuries, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has warned that it may use its regulatory power to order that the recalls be sped up by boosting the supply of replacement parts.

As of late February, just under 2 million vehicles had been repaired by the 10 automakers affected by the Takata recalls, according to NHTSA. The pace of repairs has been hindered by limited supply of replacement inflators made by Takata, which in January ramped up production of the parts to 450,000 per month from 300,000 per month. Rival airbag suppliers are preparing to build replacement inflators of their own in the future.

Honda impact
American Honda has been the automaker most-affected by the Takata airbag recalls. Its single-largest Takata recall is a national campaign for driver-side Takata airbags covering 5.4 million vehicles, which began as a regional callback limited to areas of high humidity mostly around the Gulf of Mexico before being expanded nationwide in November under pressure from NHTSA.

Through the fourth quarter, 340,123 vehicles had been repaired, according to the most recent records available on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.

"The goals of this campaign are to save lives and prevent injuries," John Mendel, exec VP of the automobile division of American Honda, said in a statement. "These ads are a strong call to action from our company designed to break through the clutter, grab the attention of customers driving affected vehicles, and urge that they get required repairs as soon as possible."

The newspaper ads say that Honda has a "national safety improvement campaign and recall underway to repair airbag inflators" and directs concerned owners to Honda and Acura websites and hotlines to see if their vehicle has been affected. It also says that owners will be given a loaner or rental car for free if their vehicle can't be repaired right away.

Risks not mentioned
Takata is not mentioned by name in the ad, which does not describe the risks posed by Takata airbags that may rupture in a crash and spray occupants with shrapnel-like metal fragments.

The campaign follows additional efforts by Honda to reach out to owners about the recalls, including sending out "millions" of mailed recall notices required by federal law, plus extra efforts such as robo-calls, additional mailers and other resources. The company also is trying to find current vehicle owners when mailed notices are returned as undeliverable.

The campaign will first roll out in seven U.S. states and territories with high year-round humidity, a factor believed to contribute to the Takata ruptures, plus four more states later, Mr. Martin said. A national campaign is not planned, Mr. Martin said.

Warm-weather states
Mr. Martin says Honda is concentrating its media buying in the areas where it believes drivers to be most at-risk and where most of the known ruptures have occurred to-date, particularly Florida.

With limited supplies, Honda has concentrated the flow of the replacement inflators to dealers in humid states that pose the greatest risk. Mr. Martin says a national ad campaign could overwhelm dealers in other states that have received fewer replacement parts.

"We are concerned about the cars in the areas of greatest need first," he said, noting that recalled vehicles are being repaired at dealers nationwide.

--Ryan Beene is a reporter for Automotive News

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