Consumers Urged to Take Advantage of Free Air Bag Removals

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ST. THOMAS — Owners of Honda and Accura vehicles are being urged by VI Justice Department to take advantage of an opportunity to remove defective air bags from their vehicles.

Attorney General Claude Walker held a press conference on Sept. 8 to update the public about efforts to get car manufacturers to remove Takata air bags from new and used vehicles. In late May the Virgin Islands became the first U.S. jurisdiction to file a class action lawsuit against Takata and Honda Motor Co. over the safety features that proved themselves dangerous.

The attorney general said he persuaded Honda executives to fly auto technicians and parts into the territory to offer free removal services, starting Thursday on St. Croix.

Walker said he viewed the company’s action separately from the pending class action, but as a demonstration of taking a more serious approach to recall the defective devices.

Motorists on St. Croix were told at the press conference about a Honda Repair-A-Thon, taking place at Hendricks International Honda Automobiles from Sept. 8 to Sept 10.

Motorists on St. Thomas-St. John and Water Islands have a chance to have Takata air bags removed from their vehicles from Sept. 15 to Sept. 18 at the Fort Chrisitan Parking Lot. Removal activities will take place from 8 am to 5 pm, as long as supplies last. Those who cannot take advantage of the free repair services are being directed by Walker to the Honda dealership in their respective districts.

The attorney general was joined at the press conference by Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Devin Carrington and Motor Vehicles Bureau Director Lawrence Olive. Olive appealed to the public to make themselves aware of the dangers posed by defective Takata air bags.

“It’s an urgent safety issue and your Honda or Accura might not be safe,” Olive said.

As of June 13, federal authorities listed nine deaths and 100 injuries suffered by U.S. motorists as a results of having Takata air bags unexpectedly deploy in cars, vans they were driving. When the defective devices deploy they can also spray metal shrapnel which can wound and kill.

One of the 100 people listed as injured in the record include an unidentified female motorist from St. Croix who received damages from Honda through a settlement.

Federal consumer protection advocates say U.S. states and territories where warmer temperatures prevail are more likely to seeing defective airbags deploy. Walker said that is why VI authorities decided to proceed with the class action suit.

Carrington recited a list of Honda makes and models known to include Takata air bags. Consumers are being advised to check the 17-digit Vehicle Indentification Number (VIN) to see if their might be subject to recall. The VIN numbers can be checked against information appearing on the Licensing and Consumer Affairs website at dlca.vi.gov.

According to records kept at the MVB, there are about 7,000 vehicles in the VI believed to carry problematic air bags.

Takata air bags can also be found in vehicles produced by Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet. But Walker said only Hondas and Accuras can be services at the free Repair-A-Thon. Other car owners are being directed to consult with their respective car dealerships.