Takata has finally pleaded guilty to deceiving automakers about the safety of its airbags. Now automakers are disputing charges that they knowingly installed the defective airbags in their cars.

But what about the millions of U.S. consumers still waiting to replace or fix the potentially deadly Takata airbags? 

“It’s far from over,” says Michelle Krebs, veteran automotive analyst at Autotrader.com. “There’s still a lot of vehicles waiting to be fixed."

This week's guilty plea by Takata in federal court, as well as the new accusations against automakers in a separate lawsuit, show that legal proceedings in the airbag scandal continue to move forward.

But for consumers, it's a reminder that the massive Takata safety recall may sometimes appear to be moving even slower than the wheels of justice. 

So far, more than 13 million airbags have been replaced, according to the latest update from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But that’s only a small portion of the estimated 65 million to 70 million Takata airbags that have been installed in 42 million cars. (Some have more than one airbag to be replaced.) The agency estimates it will be at least 2020 before all of the repairs are done.

Why so long? In large part it's because of the sheer size and complexity of the recall.

“There’s difficulty in tracking down all of the owners, with so many older cars," Krebs says. "And the awareness of this recall is still really low.”

With that in mind, here's a recap of this week's developments and a reminder of what consumers can do to get their cars fixed.  

What Happened This Week?

Takata, a Japanese manufacturer, agreed to plead guilty and pay $1 billion in penalties to settle criminal charges that it knowingly sold millions of defective airbags to automakers, causing at least 11 deaths and scores of injuries.

The gas used to inflate the Takata airbags was cheaper than what other airbag makers used, but it was also much more unstable and caused numerous explosions that sent shards of metal at the victims.  

In a separate development, new documents filed in a lawsuit against multiple automakers claims that at least five companies knew about the defective Takata airbags but chose to install them anyway. The five are BMW, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota.

Honda denied the accusation in a detailed response to Consumer Reports, calling the plaintiff attorney’s allegations misleading and a “transparent effort” to “maintain their claims for economic loss notwithstanding Takata’s guilty plea.

“The reality is that when Honda learned of the risks that these airbag inflators presented, Honda reacted promptly and appropriately by issuing safety recalls and replacing the affected Takata airbag inflators at no charge to its customers,” the company said. 

Toyota and Ford declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Nissan and BMW didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Why Is the Recall Taking So Long?

The Takata recalls are unprecedented in scope and complexity. Not only is this the largest recall in automotive history by far, it’s the first recall that has been managed directly by the U.S. government. NHTSA took over coordination to ensure that the limited supply of parts went to the cars with the greatest safety risk.

Safety regulators designed a matrix based on vehicle age and geographic location. Older vehicles in high-humidity areas—including the Gulf of Mexico coast—were deemed the highest priority. Other parts of the U.S. have since begun to receive parts. But if you have one of the newer models and live in a northern state, you might still be waiting for parts to reach your dealer.

One basic problem has been the supply chain. Takata is one of a handful of companies that makes airbags. Companies like Autoliv and Daicel have been drafted by NHTSA to ramp up production, but the manufacturing capacity isn’t big enough to match the unprecedented size of the recall. And these relatively small manufacturers are still pumping out airbags for new cars.

What Should You Do?

First, check to see whether your car is one of the models affected. More than 30 brands and well over 100 models are involved. You can check NHTSA’s website here for a list of manufacturers, makes, and model years. If you know your car’s vehicle identification number, you can look it up on NHTSA’s website or your manufacturer’s website. You can also call your dealer.

If you’ve already had an airbag replaced, make sure you don’t need another one. Some cars need an airbag for the driver’s side and passenger’s side. And if your car was included in one of the early Takata recalls, you might need to get your new airbag replaced in a couple of years.

The repairs were considered urgent enough that NHTSA ordered the recall before a root cause of the defect had been determined. The initial replacement bags are safer than the originals because they're newer, but they’re still considered flawed and will have to be recalled again before it’s all over. That’s adding to consumer confusion.

What are the automakers doing?

Of the automakers involved, Honda is the only one reporting a completion rate exceeding 50 percent. That’s good in one sense because Honda had more affected vehicles than any other automaker.

But there’s reason for alarm about the pace of the repairs. Mercedes-Benz has repaired fewer than 1 percent of its affected vehicles, according to NHTSA. BMW has repaired just 14 percent. Most other automakers are reporting completion rates around 20 percent to 30 percent.

Automakers find it challenging to reach the right people if the car is on its third or fourth owner, says Krebs, the analyst at Autotrader.com. But this is one recall consumers shouldn’t ignore, she adds, because people have died.

"There’s a recall fatigue in general," Krebs says. "People aren’t necessarily paying attention."