Deceptive? Car ads bypass air bag data

Can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to air bags?

Advertisers say no, but the recall data reveal a different story.

When it comes to air bags, most people (and car manufacturers) would agree that more is better. Air bags in windows, doors and even on the seatbelt have become commonplace in new vehicles. In 2013 models, most cars feature eight to 10 air bags. But according to this USA TODAY article, air bag recalls have involved nearly 7.75 million vehicles since 2011, more than the previous eight years combined.

Though air bags undoubtably save thousands of lives each year, this trend to increase the number of air bags in a vehicle equals an increase in the percentage of times air bags go off when they are not supposed to, leading to injuries and deaths. This also leads to car makers being required to issue recalls of their vehicles. For example, due to air bag malfunction issues alone, Honda has recalled almost 750,000 vehicles, Toyota recalled almost 880,000 vehicles, and Jeep nearly 745,000 vehicles. Complex technology, lacking in testing, can backfire as shown by the number of these air bag-related recalls. Putting air bags in new places makes the behavior of those air bags unpredictable. The things that can go wrong due to the volume of technological devices directing messages to the car is high. That constant communication dramatically increases the chances of crossed signals somewhere in the vehicle.

With statistics like these, it would make sense for advertisers to highlight the functional aspects of their vehicles’ air bags and show how they have proven effective. But even this CNN Money article notes that the sheer number of air bags a car carries is often touted as the safest feature. This Toyota Yaris commercial claims the number of air bags (nine, to be specific) means that you are better protected but doesn’t give any other reasons why (click the picture for video).

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Do you think it’s deceptive or just a marketing strategy for advertisers to say that more air bags equals more safety? Should they be required to disclose the actual safety performance of the vehicle or whether the vehicle has had any recalls for air bag-related issues?

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2 Responses to Deceptive? Car ads bypass air bag data

  1. Josh Skalniak says:

    I have mixed feelings on this question. I don’t think it’s deceptive to not mention a car’s possible malfunctions unless the manufacturer already knows there is a defect. All technology has the possibility of a malfunction at any given time. However, seeing the evidence of all of the recalls leads me to believe that car companies are quickly turning product without proper testing. It might be more profitable for them to develop the technology before their competitors, then worry about recalls later. If this is the case, then I completely agree that it’s deceptive. I hope for the sake of our safety that car companies are not doing this.

  2. Tessa Turnbow says:

    While I think that airbags are important to the safety of passengers in vehicles, the high amount of airbags in vehicles is unnecessary and unsafe. What is the purpose of them if they are constantly recalled for malfunctioning? I think it is both a marketing strategy and deceptive for advertisers to say that more airbags will equal more safety. This is because drivers want to feel safe in their vehicle if a crash were to occur, and if they are unaware about the recalls of the airbags or the possible malfunctions they would want to buy a vehicle with more airbags. It is deceptive for the advertisements to not disclose the information about the recalls because the reason for recalls is because a product is unsafe.

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