It has been said that we live in the era of Big Recall, and we have seen the largest vehicle recall ever due to the Takata airbag inflators, which in humid areas gradually turn a vital safety device essentially into a grenade.
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The recall affects more than 42 million vehicles in the United States alone, covering 19 different automakers, and the scope of the need for replacements, loaner car programs, cost reimbursements, and so on are so enormous that, were Takata to take on all of the work, it would take many, many years to fix all of the cars, as well as the company likely going belly-up.
Luckily, four automakers, Mazda, Subaru, Toyota, and BMW, have announced that they are going to pitch in to help fix the faulty inflators, to the tune of a joint $553 million. This money is actually part of a settlement intended to fund a number of programs, including outreach efforts as well as the costs mentioned above—if the settlements are approved by the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, that is.
There are four specific efforts among the ones mentioned that would be funded separately by the automakers. The first is the outreach program, which is actually set to begin before approval of the agreements to help boost numbers of people coming to have their vehicle fixed. Next is a rental car program, giving rental vehicles to drivers for whom parts won’t be in within 30 days, to start 30 days after approval.
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Third is a reimbursement program, letting “eligible customers” submit requests for “reasonable out-of-pocket expenses” related to the recalls, or register for residual payment. The announcement didn’t go into detail on what constitutes a “reasonable out-of-pocket expense,” though. The fourth effort goes to paying administrative costs like attorney fees, class member notifications, etc.
On top of those, all of the automakers promise to create a “Customer Support Program,” which would offer coverage for repairs and adjustments, including labor and parts, related to the inflator replacements.
That sounds great, although there was one slightly sour note, for legal reasons, at the bottom of the announcement: “Importantly, these agreements do not contain or constitute any admission of liability or fault by the four automakers.” Translated, “Don’t sue us for trying to help.”