WASHINGTON — Collaboration between automakers and dealerships on Takata airbag recalls has improved in the past 18 months, making it easier to perform repairs, according to industry officials and a key regulator.
"There may have been issues early on, but we think those areas have improved significantly," said Jared Allen, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Many dealers felt they could do more to spread the word to vehicle owners and complete Takata repairs if automakers treated them as full partners, according to a survey conducted last year. Results of the survey were published in a November progress report by John Buretta, the independent official appointed by NHTSA in May 2015 to monitor and coordinate the recall.
Dealers in Texas and Florida surveyed in May and June 2016 said their understanding of local markets could enhance recall outreach efforts with more tailored strategies. They also asked that automakers provide more complete and accurate data on affected vehicle owners, pay them more for recall repair work and communicate better about the availability of replacement parts and loaner cars.
Many dealerships said they were unaware of critical details regarding the recalls, which are tied to 13 deaths in the U.S. The lack of information ranged from reimbursement for rental vehicles to estimates of vehicles with open Takata recalls in their geographic area.
Buretta and industry officials say uncertainty about parts availability has diminished since the survey was conducted as automakers worked with suppliers to increase production lines for inflators. Shortages are much less common today.
Some dealers surveyed complained that financial incentives were insufficient for them to prioritize recall work over other service business or make extra efforts to inform customers about the need to have their car fixed. They said margins for recall repairs were substantially less than what dealerships earn from other kinds of repairs, including warranty and regular service work.
"We don't believe the sentiments in that section of the report are reflective of how most dealers across the country feel," Allen said. "The vast majority said they would do just about anything, even if it costs them money, once parts are available to get these vehicles into their service lane" because of the safety concern.
Payments for Takata recall work are adequate and comparable to warranty jobs, he added.