Mercedes-Benz slow to fix recalled Takata airbags

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Takata airbag recall is the largest in U.S. history, affecting 41 million vehicles. It's been going on so long, you might need a refresher. There are still 13 million cars with airbags that need replacement on the road, according to the Center for Auto Safety.

Four years ago, Takata recalled these airbags after several deployed incorrectly, sending shrapnel flying through vehicles. There have been 16 deaths and over 200 injuries. Some people forced to wait for their recalled airbags to be fixed are afraid to drive their cars.

Dorothy Williams of North Lawndale got so tired of waiting, she bought another car.

"I want my airbag replaced. That's it, plain and simple," Williams told the ABC 7 I-Team.

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Consumer Investigator Jason Knowles has this I-Team takeaway on what you can do if you are waiting and scared to drive your car.



She bought a second car because she doesn't feel safe in her 2011 Mercedes-Benz.

"I still pay insurance on it so it's a double whammy," she said.

Williams has been waiting more than three years on recalled Takata airbag replacements. The I-Team found that Mercedes is among the slowest car-makers when it comes to fixing the safety problem.

"I called my Mercedes-Benz dealership, they told me there were no parts available yet," she said. "That they would let me know when parts were available and they would send me a letter so I waited again, and again, and again."

Williams isn't the only Mercedes owner waiting for a fix. According to the US Department of Transportation, Mercedes has only replaced 35% of defective airbags.

"Mercedes unfortunately, is on the bottom end of success in replacing these defective airbags. That's a pretty low figure for any of the manufacturers but particularly for a luxury manufacturer like Mercedes," said Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. "By comparison Honda recalled 17 million airbags and they have repaired over 85% of them."

"I didn't feel comfortable in it, don't feel comfortable having my friends and family in it," Williams told the I-Team. "I bought an alternate vehicle which I drive 99% of the time."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created 10 priority groups in order of most dangerous to least. Williams is in priority group four. But most manufacturers are beyond group four and up to group 10.

"It's unfortunate to see Mercedes to treat its customer base this way," said Levine.

Williams filed complaints with NHTSA.

"I'm pretty disgusted with them. Mercedes Benz should be able to figure it out," she said.

And they did. Three weeks after the I-Team contacted Mercedes-Benz, sending all of Williams' paperwork, she received a letter setting up an airbag replacement date at the end of October.

Mercedes-Benz, told the I-Team, "... the safety of our customers is our highest priority. Mercedes-Benz USA, like most U.S. auto companies, is replacing Takata airbags on a schedule that is coordinated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)..."

"Because this is a question of parts availability, letters were sent to all the potentially affected customers at various intervals," the statement continued. "We are not aware of any instances in which a customer experienced the issue described in the Takata recall."

"Please be aware that neither Mercedes-Benz nor NHTSA have deemed this a 'stop drive' recall so Ms. Williams needn't stop driving her vehicle," the statement also said. "We understand, and are sorry for, Ms. Williams' frustration."

The Center for Auto Safety said other manufacturers have also been experiencing delays, but nothing like Mercedes.

If you're still waiting for your airbag replacement, you can call another dealer in the next neighborhood or suburb over. Drivers aren't limited to the dealership where they bought their car.

Drivers can also ask for a rental car to be paid for, but not many dealers or manufacturers may be willing to do this.

Click here to visit the NHTSA's recall page.

FULL MERCEDES BENZ STATEMENT

I can assure you that the safety of our customers is our highest priority which is why we have been conducting the recall even though we are not aware of any instances in which a customer experienced the issue described in the Takata recall (here or anywhere in the world).

As you probably know, the Takata situation is one that virtually every automaker in the U.S. is dealing with. Mercedes-Benz USA, like most U.S. auto companies, is replacing Takata airbags on a schedule that is coordinated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under the Coordinated Remedy Order.

Because this is a question of parts availability, letters were sent to all the potentially affected customers at various intervals. Additionally, any owner can get information on the status of their vehicle relative to the recall, if not by contacting their dealer, then on our website https://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/recall or by contacting our Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-367-6372.

Also, please be aware that neither Mercedes-Benz nor NHTSA have deemed this a "stop drive" recall so Ms. Williams needn't stop driving her vehicle.

We understand, and are sorry for, Ms. Williams' frustration and we're grateful for her patience as the entire industry tries to come to grips with a recall of this magnitude
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