Earlier this month, Honda announced it was going to run a nationwide ad campaign to reach consumers who needed to have their airbags replaced as part of the Takata recall. There are 5.5 million Hondas among the 17 million total US vehicles that need to have their airbags replaced, but as of February 2015 less than two million cars of any make had been repaired.

Compare that to Japan, where 3.05 million cars were recalled for the same issue, and 2.13 million had been fixed by February of this year. That's a completion rate of 70 percent in Japan compared to 12 percent here. The reasons given for the discrepancy include Japan's "onerous safety and emissions inspections" that keep owners informed of recalls - the kind of notice we might get if certain legislation passes, more conscientious consumers, and the smaller percentage of used cars on Japanese roads, part of a smaller number of cars in general.

The healthy and very fluid trade in pre-owned automobiles in the US has made it harder for carmakers to get in touch with owners. On top of that, we have a lot more cars that are a lot older; the average age of a US car is 11 years old, compared to eight years old in Japan and Europe. The lack of a broadcast channel that can reach drivers everywhere means the Takata situation could rumble on for years, and potentially taking more lives with it.

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