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News - General News - Takata Recall

THE Takata saga emerged publicly in April 2013 when safety recalls were issued over defective airbags that could potentially injure or kill vehicle occupants.


What is the defect with impacted airbags?


Affected Takata airbags use phase-stabilised ammonium nitrate as a propellant, which, if without a desiccant or with a calcium sulphate desiccant, can degrade when exposed to high temperatures and humidity over time.


If this occurs, the airbag may deploy with excessive force during an accident, rupturing the airbag inflator housing and causing sharp metal fragments to penetrate the cabin and strike occupants.


This can apply to either the driver- or passenger-side front airbags, or, in some cases, both.


Has anyone been injured or killed?


From a current global perspective, there have been 23 deaths and 230 injuries reported as a result of the defective Takata airbags. These figures include one death and one injury in Australia.


The former occurred in New South Wales in July 2017 when a 58-year-old man was killed after his 2009 Honda CR-V was involved in an accident.


Meanwhile, the latter took place in the Northern Territory three months earlier, with a 21-year-old woman sustaining a head injury while driving her Toyota RAV4.


How many airbags have been recalled worldwide and in Australia?


Currently, more than 100 million airbags have been recalled worldwide, but the number of vehicles impacted is less than this figure as some require multiple airbag inflator replacements.


In Australia, about four million airbags have been called back – 2.7 million under the initial voluntary recalls and 1.3 million under the recent compulsory recalls.


According to the ACCC, the replacement rate under the voluntary recalls is about 63 per cent as of January 2018. This rate varies between 36 per cent and 84 per cent among the 16 implicated manufacturers.


What is an Alpha airbag?


Alpha airbags are a small subset of the wider Takata recall and pose the highest safety risk. They were installed in some vehicles imported to Australia from 2001 to 2004 and have been shown to rupture more frequently.


The ACCC recommends that owners of vehicles with Alpha airbags immediately organise a replacement of their airbag inflators and stop driving them due to safety concerns.


As of writing, about 89,000 Alpha airbags have been replaced in Australia, but another 25,000 still require action.


What is the federal government-issued compulsory recall?


Announced by the Turnbull government in February 2018, the compulsory recall covers all vehicles sold in Australia with Takata airbags.


This move was made to put pressure on the 16 manufacturers that had already issued voluntary recalls but did not complete replacements at what the government believes is a satisfactory rate.


Additionally, nine new manufacturers were included under the compulsory recall, with the federal government calling for them to issue and complete recalls by December 31, 2020.


Which manufacturers have been affected in Australia?


BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, GMC, Honda, Jeep, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo and Hino Trucks were impacted under the initial voluntary recalls.


Meanwhile, the recent compulsory recall has seen Ford, Holden, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda added to the list.


What needs to be done if a vehicle is recalled over the airbag inflator?


As part of the recent compulsory recall, manufacturers are required to post an impacted Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) database on their consumer websites by July 1, 2018.


Owners can search this database for their vehicle’s VIN and if it has been recalled, they can directly contact their preferred dealership to arrange a free-of-charge replacement of the airbag inflator or airbag itself, whichever is required.


However, there may be delays in facilitating these replacements as airbag supply issues partly dictate the pace at which they can take place.


What happens if a defective airbag is replaced with another Takata part?


In some instances, manufacturers may need to temporarily replace an older Takata airbag with a newer version of the same part.


This can occur due to supply issues as demand for replacement airbags from other suppliers is currently very high.


Typically, the defect may arise six-to-25 years after the airbag is installed in a vehicle, meaning it is a suitable short-term solution.


However, vehicles that are frequently exposed to areas with high heat and humidity can see issues arise in six-to-nine years.


Such vehicles will be subject to a future secondary recall where the Takata airbag will be replaced again, this time with a part from an alternate supplier as stock increases.


What about owners of second-hand vehicles?


Owners of second-hand vehicles are also entitled to a free-of-charge airbag inflator replacement.


However, they should contact their vehicle’s manufacturer to ensure the appropriate contact details are up-to-date and correct.


If you are currently selling a vehicle and it has not had its final replacement, you must alert the new owner and arrange for their details to be passed on to the manufacturer.


Is there a legal obligation for owners to have their vehicle’s airbag inflators replaced?


The compulsory recall does not force owners to bring their vehicles in for an airbag inflator replacement, but manufacturers are obligated to attempt to facilitate the recall via various methods.


As such, manufacturers may face penalties if they do not meet the requirements of the compulsory recall, which include the manner and timing of the processes.


However, it is highly recommended that owners book their vehicles in for the replacement due to the safety risk.


What consequences have Takata faced following these recalls?


In February 2017, Takata Corporation pleaded guilty to a felony charge in the United States federal court as part of a $US1 billion ($A1.297b) settlement deal made with the justice department that included a compensation fund for victims.


The Japanese automotive supplier filed for bankruptcy protection in the US and Japan in June 2017. Its global liabilities are expected to top $US10 billion ($A12.97 billion) as the saga unfolds.


As a result, US automotive supplier Key Safety Systems (KSS) bought out Takata Corporation for $US1.6 billion ($A2.08 billion), taking over its global assets and operations, excluding resources related to the manufacturing and sale of the recall-related airbag inflators.

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