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Brands replacing Takata airbags with like-for-like units

Not quick: The Takata airbag debacle is not only costing motor companies big dollars but also Australian taxpayers, who have to foot the bill for the ACCC to make sure recall repairs are done.

New Takata airbags expected to be recalled and replaced again within six years

25 Jul 2017

UPDATED: 26/07/2017SEVERAL car manufacturers in Australia embroiled in the Takata airbag scandal have confirmed to GoAuto that they have replaced faulty airbag inflators with new ‘like-for-like’ Takata parts which will need to be replaced in the next six years.

As the car-makers do not produce the components, many are struggling to source permanent replacement airbags to rectify the problem, with the global recall now stretching to more than 100 million affected vehicles.

Although many authorities and publications, including a report published by consumer advocacy group Choice, have condemned the replacement of a faulty airbag unit with a new one that is expected to fail again and require another fix after six years, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has deemed the new units safe and acceptable for use.

The fault in the Takata airbags causes the chemical compound found within the inflator to degrade over time – usually after six years – meaning that upon deployment the metal case could rupture and send metallic shrapnel flying into the cabin.

In Australia, the number of recalled vehicle has reached 2.3 million, with some car-makers including Nissan, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Mitsubishi acknowledging that the old airbag inflator will be replaced with a new Takata unit as a stop-gap measure until a long-term replacement can be sourced.

According to Nissan Australia, the new Takata airbag unit used in repairs meets the NHTSA standards and will be recalled again down the track once permanent components can be found.

“The replacement parts fitted to Nissan vehicles as part of the recall are new Takata airbags which are free of manufacturing defects,” the company said.

“In May last year, NHTSA announced that all airbags that were manufactured without a chemical drying agent, known as desiccant, would need to be recalled.

“NHTSA said that, whilst these replacements would eventually need to be recalled, the improved Takata airbags presented no unreasonable risk for occupants for at least six years.

“This scenario is deemed more suitable than leaving old airbag inflators in use while replacement parts are produced and delivered. These airbags will be recalled in due course.

“Nissan aims to bring the swiftest possible resolution to this issue for our customers and is focused on the removal of all recalled airbags.”

Similarly, FCA Australia – which includes the Chrysler and Jeep brands caught up in the recall – said like-for-like Takata airbags will only be used on passenger units to ensure the at-risk vehicles are rectified in the quickest manner possible.

“FCA is replacing all driver’s side airbags through an alternate supplier (not Takata) which provides a permanent solution,” the company said. “We currently have enough supply to meet the demand for driver’s side replacement airbags.

“FCA is replacing all passenger side airbags using Takata inflators, which according to the NHTSA means that when operating in Australia, will be safe for six years.”

Mitsubishi said only its Lancer is affected by like-for-like new Takata units, with its Triton, Pajero and i-MiEV vehicles repaired with non-Takata inflators.

“Our parent company in Japan, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, has advised that the airbag inflator on the Mitsubishi Lancer needs to be replaced with a new Takata airbag which is free from manufacturing defect,” the brand said.

“Lancer is the only Mitsubishi product where a Takata airbag is to be replaced with another Takata airbag.

“NHTSA said that these new Takata airbags presented no unreasonable risk for occupants.”

Mitsubishi has repaired about 38 per cent, or 76,000, of the 200,000 vehicles it has identified as part of the Takata airbag recall.

However, other manufacturers contacted by GoAuto – including Honda, BMW and Subaru – are initiating a secondary recall that provides a permanent solution by fitting safe airbag inflators that will not require further replacement.

Honda Australia, the most visible brand caught in the Takata scandal after a CR-V driver was killed in crash, with a faulty airbag deemed “the likely cause of death”, said it has already begun its secondary round of callbacks.

“We are aware of reports that say Honda has replaced recalled inflators with like-for-like Takata inflators and we understand many consumers are concerned about what this means for them,” the company said.

“Honda can confirm a small number of Takata inflators have been subject to a secondary recall.”

These include 1747 examples of the Accord mid-size sedan and CR-V mid-size SUV and 788 examples of the Civic small sedan. All up, there are 426,198 Honda vehicles caught up in the recall in Australia, with 650,379 inflators identified as needing replacement.

Subaru has also identified that 9973 initial repairs will subsequently need to be corrected.

Subaru Australia told GoAuto this week: “We have also sourced 63,670 airbag inflators that will not require subsequent replacement and expect (based on current factory advice) an additional 76,882 of these airbag inflators to be delivered by the end of 2017.”

Similarly, BMW initiated a second round of recalls for its 3 Series, 5 Series and X5 vehicles earlier this year to replace the new Takata units with a permanent solution.

The German prestige car-maker said it has completed about 40 per cent of the 88,828 recognised vehicles affected by faulty airbag units and identified the age of the vehicles and multiple ownership changes as a hurdle in successfully contacting owners.

GoAuto has also contacted Toyota, Lexus and Mazda for comment but at the time of publishing has yet to receive a reply.

However, not all customers are happy with the solution offered, with a consumer class action claim from law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan seeking full refunds from car-makers selling Takata-affected airbags.

Australian Consumer Law (ACL) dictates that products must be safe for use, and according to one of the lawyers on the case, Roland Tellis, owners should be entitled to refunds if the vehicles are in breach of ACL.

“Australian consumers need to know that these airbags degrade over time, so the longer they remain unrepaired on the market, the more incidents that will happen,” he said.

“As we’ve learned, some auto manufacturers are also replacing faulty airbags with equally faulty ones. If there are no safe replacements, the only way to remedy this for Australian consumers is to demand a refund.”

Takata filed for bankruptcy last month.

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