Toyota Canada has launched an aggressive campaign to encourage thousands of owners to bring their vehicles in for service to have potentially dangerous Takata airbag inflators replaced.
The massive worldwide recall defective inflators, which that can explode and spray car occupants with metal shrapnel, has been a slow-moving process for automakers. More than 20 people have been killed worldwide.
About 1.5 million vehicles sold in Canada are affected but Toyota Canada estimates less than half of its affected owner body has had the defective airbag inflators replaced since the automaker began contacting them in 2013.
“Canadians have not responded as quickly as we had hoped, so we’re looking to grab their attention,” Toyota Canada vice-president Stephen Beatty said in a news release. “The greater the effectiveness of our campaign, the lower the risk of injury, so we’re working hard to have an impact.”
Toyota’s fresh campaign will include phone calls, e-mails and three “increasingly insistent” postcards sent to known owners.
“The company hopes the bright colours, blunt language and powerful images in the postcards will present a rationale that is too compelling to ignore,” Toyota said in its release.
For Toyota and other automakers, part of the problem has been that the vehicles are no longer in the hands of the original owners. Those who buy used Toyotas don’t necessarily notify the company of the change.
“We’re taking every step possible to identify the current owners of the vehicles,” Beatty added. “Once we know who they are, we can urge them to bring their vehicle in, so we’re using new methods to try to identify and engage them.”
The risk of defective airbag inflators going off increases with time, Toyota stressed, as the vehicles are exposed to moisture and fluctuating high temperatures. Many of the affected vehicles are 10-15 years old, the company said.
The recall affects Toyota models as far back as 2002, including Corolla, Matrix, Sequoia, Tundra, RAV4 and Lexus SC vehicles.
Meanwhile, Ford has launched a program offering cash incentives to its U.S. dealers to track and repair down the remaining 2006 Ford Ranger pickups equipped with the defective airbags.
More than 30,000 affected trucks are covered by a “do-not-drive” warning and about 75 per cent have been accounted for or repaired. The same do-not-drive warning was issued in Canada.
"We want to get to these vehicles as quickly as we can," spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt told Automotive News.
"We just don’t want our customers driving these vehicles at all.”
It was not immediately clear whether Canadian dealers are being offered similar incentives.