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ACCC criticised over recall data inaction

No go: Car companies have been unable to entice one million car owners to bring their vehicles into dealerships for a Takata airbag replacement.

Motor industry plea for rego data to help Takata recall ignored, says FCAI

28 Feb 2018

AUSTRALIA’S peak motor industry body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), has criticised the federal government consumer watchdog for ignoring car company pleas to help arrange for state registration data to be employed to trace hard-to-find owners of vehicles urgently needing airbag replacements.

FCAI chief executive officer Tony Weber said his organisation had repeatedly asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to make such arrangements with the states because many cars had changed hands several times, causing car companies to lose track of ownership.

“Sometimes we are talking about third, fourth or even fifth owners of vehicles,” he said. “The ACCC, despite being asked this (to use registration data) in 2015, still haven’t reacted to this. I question why.

“It goes to the essence of the point that this is a serious public safety issue, and the resources of industry and government need to work together to address this in the most efficient and effective way to save lives and keep people from serious injury.”

80 center imageLeft: FCAI chief executive officer Tony Weber

Mr Weber was speaking to GoAuto after the federal government today announced Australia’s first compulsory motor vehicle safety recall to replace defective Takata airbags on 2.3 million vehicles sold by 25 car brands.

The order announced by assistant minister to the treasurer Michael Sukkar was made on the recommendation of the ACCC (see separate story).

Until now, 16 manufacturers have been running voluntary safety recall campaigns across Australia in an effort to replace potentially dangerous airbags on 2.7 million vehicles, but so far have managed to coax just 1.7 million into service workshops to have the fix.

This is despite multiple attempts to contact owners by mail and advertisements in national campaigns.

State registration organisations have the names and addresses of the vast majority of the car owners, but will not allow either car company access to them or to send out recall notification letters on behalf of the motor companies.

Some manufacturers want to go even further by getting states to refuse annual re-registration of cars or transfer of ownership of vehicles until the airbags have been replaced.

Mr Weber said safety was the number priority for FCAI members and that the Takata recall had been the “absolute priority” for a number of years.

“An enormous amount of industry resources have gone into undertaking the voluntary campaign,” he said. “We thought it was progressing successfully, and we don’t need a mandatory recall, but we are more than happy to work within the guidelines provided under the mandatory recall.

“And I think the number one issue here is actually accessing those people who they have had trouble finding to get them to bring their cars in to replace their airbags.

“If there is one thing that is good that will come out of this is hopefully the media attention will get people to respond to this serious safety issue.”

Asked why nine motor companies named in the compulsory safety recall had not previously joined the voluntary recall, Mr Weber said research on the airbags concerned had not been finished.

“Research is still going with NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in the United States to investigate it, and many of my brands are doing research,” he said.

“That research is not yet completed, and we would have thought it would have been worthwhile waiting for that.

“It hasn’t happened, but our brands will comply with the mandatory recall notice.”

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