Takata airbag recall creates problem for Hillsborough woman with leased vehicle

Lisa Laird

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Apollo Beach resident Lisa Laird leased two Volkswagen Passats in 2014, one for herself and one for her adult son to cart around her grandkids.

Now, she’s afraid to drive her Passat and worries about her son and grandchildren every time they step into the other Passat. “It’s been over two months in the garage and it has not been driven,” Laird said.

That’s because the VW Passat is part of a massive recall based on possibly defective airbags that could explode in Florida’s heat and humidity.  The VW recall is part of a much larger safety alert involving other manufacturers such as such as Toyota, Honda who unknowingly installed the suspect Takata airbags in their vehicles for years before a number of fatalities caused by exploding airbag shrapnel were documented and recall notices began going out to consumers.

If Laird was driving a Honda she could easily obtain a free rental from Honda until replacement airbags become available—and there’s no telling when that will happen.

But, the trouble is that VW doesn’t offer free rentals to customers and Bert Smith VW, the dealer that leased the cars to Laird, insists it is powerless to help. “They said I’m sorry there’s nothing we can do,” Laird said.

Laird’s only options are to keep driving her Passat despite her fears of an exploding driver side airbag, turn in her lease cars early which will cost her according to the General Manager at Bert Smith VW or park the car until replacement parts are available.

“It could be a year or more at that time my lease is up,” said Laird.

Laird thinks that unfair—especially since her vehicles are leased, not owned, and in her view she’s being forced to pay for unsafe vehicles. “I’m  not getting anything for my money,” said Laird.  “I haven’t driven the car.”

Meanwhile, the massive recall is under scrutiny. In June, a  Senate Commerce Committee report indicates four automakers are still installing potentially defective Takata airbags in new vehicles. The four are: Fiat-Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a web site that allows car owners to find out if their car is part of the recall. The link can be found here.

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