Tipline Story: Santa Paula man turns to the White House for help

Dave Solis parked his dream car for a year.

Tipline Story: Santa Paula man turns to the White House for help

SANTA PAULA, Calif. - Exactly one year ago, we featured a Santa Paula man caught in the middle of the Takata airbag recall. Like tens of millions of Americans he faced a critical decision, should he drive his recalled car and gamble with his life or park it and wait.

The last time we saw Dave Solis he was standing next to his dream car, a 2012 Boss 302 Mustang. Now, he's behind the wheel.

"Every time I drive it, I enjoy it. The joy is taken out of it for me when I look at it. I remember all the problems I had trying to get it fixed," said Solis.

We'll explain how he finally got it fixed in a moment, but it wasn't easy.

Our first story with Solis has been viewed on YouTube almost 20,000 times. He had parked his car for a year afraid to drive it.

"I called Ford and they told me to go ahead and drive your vehicle, it's safe to drive. The National Highway Traffic Administration says so. I called NHTSA, they tell me do not drive your vehicle. Your recall notice says your car can kill you or seriously injure you," said Solis.

It's a contradiction that could kill. Millions of Americans have no choice but to drive their recalled car. So far, defective Takata airbags have killed at least 11 people in the U.S.

Here's what makes them so dangerous. Inside each airbag is a small canister called an inflator. During a crash it's designed to create a small, controlled explosion that inflates the airbag in a fraction of a second.

But, defective Takata inflators blow up like a grenade sending shrapnel throughout the cabin of the vehicle. Instead of saving lives, it's killing people.

Solis has a deeper understanding than most. He built cars for General Motors for 25 years.

"In the 80's, we used to fight to keep Japanese parts out of our cars and keep them American made,"  said Solis. 

Now he's part of the largest recall in automotive history. So, how did Solis get his Mustang fixed? He wrote a letter to the President.

"I had to go all the way to Obama. I wrote it as my final letter of frustration and the man listened to me and I was amazed. President Obama at the time would take 10 emails a day and review them. They were taken from staff and apparently mine was one of them," said Solis.

Seven days later, Solis said Ford called him and offered to replace the defective Takata parts.

Solis is back on the road, but now he's worried about the millions of recalled vehicles still out there that may never get fixed.

"There are a lot of people driving them and that's unfortunate. They're risking their lives and they don't understand how dangerous this truly is," said Solis.

Maybe these numbers will give you some idea of the danger. 65 million defective Takata inflators have been recalled, only about 12 to 13 million have been fixed. 19 automakers are now involved. 184 people have been hurt and 11 killed.

The last known death happened in Corona, in Southern California in September. The woman who died bought the 2001 Honda used in 2015. It had been recalled in 2008 and never fixed.

Ford sent us this statement in response to David Solis' comment that it took intervention by President Obama to get his car fixed, "We take the safety of our customers very seriously. Ford, like other automakers, is following NHTSA’s Takata Coordinated Remedy Order, addressing vehicles NHTSA determined to have the highest risk first. We notified this customer that a permanent repair was available for his front driver side airbag inflator in his vehicle on June 24, 2016 and our records show he had the vehicle repaired on June 25, 2016."

Here are some things to consider when buying a used car in the future. Check to see if it's on the recall list. Do not assume it's been repaired regardless of the age of the vehicle. Don't assume it's been repaired just because your buying it from a dealer. Ask the seller for documentation to prove the recalled issues have been repaired. Even with proper documentation, you may want to have the vehicle inspected anyway. And consider this, many of these recalled vehicles may never be repaired and could stay on the road for decades to come.


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