Toyota is partnering with the Carma Project to accelerate the rate of repair of vehicles with Takata airbags.

The ongoing struggle to get car owners with potentially deadly Takata airbags in their vehicles to bring them in for repair is taking a new turn: social media.

Toyota Motor North America and the Carma Project are working together to get more of the vehicles repaired using the internet and rewards to improve the repair rate for vehicles in the largest automotive recall in history.

The 70 million airbags, used by nearly 20 automakers, including Toyota, can explode with too much force sending pieces of plastic and metal into the vehicle’s cabin. It’s responsible for 24 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

The numbers continue to add up because typically, vehicle owners don’t take recalls seriously or they don’t even get the notices at all because the vehicle has been sold multiple times. The repair rate for most recalls is less than three-quarters of all affected cars, trucks and utility vehicles.

(Toyota announces Takata recall a year in advance. Click Here for the story.)

Given the nature of the Takata recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pushing to get every vehicle repaired. The Carma Project is designed to accelerate consumer response to recalls and its initial project is the Takata action.

Toyota is recalling 2002-2005 model year Sequoias to replace faulty Takata airbags.

Despite extensive efforts by manufacturers, such as recall letters, public service announcements, and dealer interventions, consumer response to fixing these potentially life-threatening airbags continues to be lower than hoped, with one out of every three affected airbags still unrepaired, Toyota notes.

“We know that friends and family can play a powerful role in influencing how people make decisions about safety,” said Toyota Motor North America’s Vice President of Product Quality and Service Support Tom Trisdale. “Our partnership with Carma Project is designed to motivate and incentivize people to share critical information about the recall, including how to get the remedy for free.”

Carma Project uses word-of-mouth communication in conjunction with the speed and ease of smart phones and the internet to alert vehicle owners if they have a car that uses the faulty airbags. The effort has been battle tested in the healthcare arena and seemed an ideal fit for this purpose.

(Click Here for more about Takata’s airbag recall.)

“We’ve built a similar solution in healthcare and have seen it work,” said Carma Project CEO Fabio Gratton. “Companies struggle to identify participants for clinical trials, because they are hard to find and oftentimes ignore industry outreach.

Takata's faulty airbag inflators have been linked to 24 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

“But a friend or family member has that trust, access, and influence to ensure that those people learn about these trials and ultimately receive those potentially life-saving medications. We’re confident that this approach will work in the automotive world, especially when combined with our incentive model.”

Perhaps more importantly, it appeals to the desire of people to be rewarded for their action. In the case of the Carma Project, participants can earn $55 for helping identify someone with an affected vehicle.

All they have to do is sign up for Carma Project and share the Takata airbag recall information with their friends and family. A simple license plate photo or typing a VIN into a recall lookup tool on Carma Project’s website allows involved Toyota, Lexus, and Scion owners to immediately take action and book an appointment for a free Takata airbag fix. Referring individuals can also earn financial rewards for every eligible Toyota, Lexus or Scion that is fixed.

(Less than half of potentially deadly Takata airbags replaced. For the story, Click Here.)

“As more automotive manufacturers join Carma Project, more incentives will be added, ultimately leading to our mission of eradicating this ongoing problem,” Gratton said.

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