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2.3 million vehicles in airbag recall

Pop: Nine more manufacturers have been caught up in the Takata airbag saga after the federal government rubber-stamped an ACCC request to make the recall compulsory.

Canberra brings the boom down on reluctant car-makers over airbags recall

General News logo28 Feb 2018

THE Australian government today ordered a compulsory safety recall for 2.3 million vehicles to replace defective Takata airbags on the advice of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Twenty-five vehicle brands have now been ensnared by the Takata saga under the first government-mandated compulsory recall in Australia where vehicle recalls hitherto have been voluntary by manufacturers under an industry code of conduct.

It reflects the ACCC’s unhappiness with the reluctance of some manufacturers to replace the Takata airbag inflators that have been associated with 23 deaths worldwide, including one in Australia.

The ACCC is also unhappy with the completion rate of airbags repairs under the voluntary system, saying last year that only 38 per cent of affected vehicles recalled since 2009 had been fixed.

While 16 manufacturers have already introduced voluntary recalls to replace airbags on 2.7 million vehicles, the government has ordered a further nine manufacturers to recall 1.3 million of their vehicles by the end of 2020.

The new manufacturers caught up in the compulsory recall are Ford, GM Holden, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda.

To date, many of these motor companies have argued that airbags used in their vehicles were made at Takata factories with higher quality levels, and thus were safe.

The faulty airbags have a propellant that can degrade when exposed to moisture, so that when it deploys in a crash, it explodes with too much force, blasting metal shrapnel into the vehicle.

So far, airbags have been replaced in 1.7 million vehicles under the voluntary recall by BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, GMC, Honda, Jeep, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo and Hino Trucks.

However, manufacturers have been frustrated with the reluctance of about one million owners to submit their vehicles to have the fix. Some have called for state governments to refuse to re-register vehicles that have not had the airbag replaced.

Announcing the compulsory recall, assistant minister to the treasurer Michael Sukkar said that while almost one in five passenger vehicles on Australian roads had been recalled, the voluntary recall process has not been effective in some cases.

“Some manufacturers have not taken satisfactory action to address the serious safety risk which arises after the airbags are more than six years old,” he said.

“To ensure a coordinated recall, over the next two years manufacturers will be required to progressively identify their recalls and replace airbags in affected vehicles.”

Because some replacement airbags to date have been “like for like” units, some vehicles already recalled will have to be returned to dealerships for another airbag under the compulsory order.

The manufacturers will be required to give priority to the airbags that present the highest risk, namely Takata’s so-called Alpha airbags.

According to the ACCC, 25,000 vehicles with these Alpha airbags are still on the road in Australia, putting their owners at “immediate and extreme safety risk”.

“These vehicles should not be driven,” it warns. Car manufacturers will be required to have these vehicles towed, and, if necessary, supply to replacement car to the owner for the duration of the repair.

Manufacturers must supply lists of affected vehicles to the ACCC to be published on its product safety website.

The government has ordered that recalls must be initiated as soon as possible, and that each manufacturer must publish a VIN search tool on their website for car owners to identify whether third vehicle requires an airbag replacement.

Importers of “grey” vehicles – cars and light-commercial vehicles brought into Australia by independent operators – are also responsible for fixing affected vehicles.

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