The Australian car industry is almost 80 per cent through its Takata airbag recall, but there are few brands with completion rates behind that figure.
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Australia's Takata airbag recall is almost 80 per cent complete, but the ACCC data says there are three brands with a conversion rate below 70 per cent.

A combination of heat and humidity can make the propellant in Takata airbag inflators degrade over time. In an accident where the airbags deploy, metal fragments could shoot into the cabin, posing a serious risk of injury or death to passengers.

Older cars in hot, humid climates are most likely to be affected by the fault. There are 24 reported deaths and more than 260 injuries from faulty inflators worldwide.

Mercedes-Benz has the lowest airbag replacement percentage in Australia, with a completion rate of just over 53 per cent, leaving 54,109 cars with faulty inflators on the road.

Volkswagen has finished just under 57 per cent of its replacements since starting its recall in June 2018, while the ACCC says Holden is 63 per cent complete – although CarAdvice understands that figure could be closer to 72 per cent as of the start of August, which would put the Lion Brand on a par with BMW.

Holden, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz all commenced their Takata campaigns on July 1, 2018, which means they've all replaced more than 50 per cent of inflators within the past 12 months.

For the sake of comparison, the industry leaders (Mazda, Honda, Citroen and Mitsubishi) have all passed 90 per cent completion.

Mercedes-Benz says it's "significantly ahead of the Quarterly Completion Schedule as agreed with the ACCC for both passenger cars and vans and is on track to complete the recall in accordance with the requirements in the compulsory Recall Notice".

"In the interest of our customers, we are not replacing like-for-like airbags. The replacement airbags will not need a subsequent recall for the same issue. It is also important to note that there are no “Alpha” airbags in any Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Australia," a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson told CarAdvice.

Volkswagen also says it's on track to have the mandatory Takata recall complete by the ACCC-imposed deadline of December 31, 2020.

"This will entail a staged recall of affected Volkswagen vehicles over the next three years. Owners can be assured that no Volkswagen vehicle is fitted with an airbag from the alpha population," the company said in a statement.

"All Volkswagen airbag inflators are being replaced using alternative suppliers that do not use Ammonium Nitrate as the propellant for their airbag inflators... No Volkswagen vehicles are being fitted with 'like for like' replacements as is the case with some other manufacturers."

The peak body for carmakers in Australia, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), last week announced it will ramp up its advertising campaign in an attempt to push the remaining 600,000 vehicle owners back to dealerships for a replacement inflator.

Global parts shortages have played a role in the recall's pacing, with brands struggling to source replacements.

As announced by the ACCC in 2017, the recall requires all brands to replace defective Takata airbags by 31 December 2020, with priority given to ‘alpha’ airbags – which have been identified as those posing a greater safety risk, with a 50/50 chance of shooting shrapnel into the cabin in an accident.

Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Holden don't have any alpha inflators to replace. All three brands called on owners to check if their cars are included in the campaign, and to contact their nearest dealer if they are.

“Our manufacturers have made tremendous progress in replacing faulty airbags. They have rectified more than two million vehicles,” said Tony Weber, FCAI CEO.

“Many owners of outstanding vehicles have simply overlooked the need to check the status of their vehicles," he later added. "Many others may erroneously believe that a faulty airbag will not affect them."

Head to www.ismyairbagsafe.com to see if your car needs a replacement airbag inflator.