BMW has taken the unprecedented step of asking owners of 12,663 of its 3 Series models made from 1997 to 2000 to stop driving immediately because their cars may have faulty airbags linked to a fatality and a serious injury in two separate crashes in Australia.
A safety bulletin issued this afternoon says: “Owners of affected vehicles should stop driving their vehicle immediately and urgently contact their local BMW dealership or call BMW Australia’s Takata hotline directly on 1800 243 675 to organise their free vehicle inspection”.
“Vehicles will be either towed to the place of inspection or a mobile technician will come to inspect the vehicle at the (owner’s) home or the vehicle’s location,” says the notice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
If the vehicle does contain a suspected faulty airbag, BMW will offer to arrange a loan or rental car or “reimbursement for alternative transport costs” until parts are available for an airbag replacement, or until other arrangements can be made.
Customers may also discuss “the vehicle being purchased by BMW”, says the ACCC.
CarAdvice understands the replacement airbag parts may not be ready for up to 18 months, potentially leaving thousands of motorists stranded, hence the offer of a rental car, loan car, taxi fares or a vehicle buyback.
Authorities are yet to reveal in which states and when the fatality and serious injury occurred. The fatality is still before the coroner.
However, CarAdvice understands both incidents happened in the past three months.
If the death is found to have been a result of a faulty airbag, it will be the second on Australia roads due to a defective Takata safety device which can spray shrapnel when deployed in a crash. The serious injury would also be the second of its type in Australia linked to Takata.
Globally, 24 people have died and more than 260 people have been seriously injured as a result of faulty Alpha and Beta type Takata airbags.
In Australia to date the one fatality in Sydney in July 2017 (in a Honda CR-V) and one serious injury in Darwin in April 2017 (in a Toyota RAV4) have been confirmed involving cars equipped with the Beta type of Takata airbag.
However, the BMW recall involves a new type of Takata airbag not detected before.
A statement issued today by the ACCC says: “Transport safety authorities in Australia, US and Japan have identified a different type of Takata airbag that poses a critical risk of death or serious injury to vehicle occupants, prompting an urgent recall of around 12 000 BMW vehicles which may still be in use on Australian roads”.
In response, BMW in Australia has begun a voluntary recall of BMW E46 3 Series cars, produced between November 1997 and June 2000, following a “recent identification of a pattern of abnormal airbag deployments involving BMW cars in Australia, Japan and the US”.
“The ACCC and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development are working with police and other authorities to understand the facts regarding two recent suspected mis-deployments of these inflators in Australia, including a death and a serious injury,” the ACCC statement says.
The BMW vehicles suspected of being the cause of one death and one serious injury in Australia were fitted with Takata NADI (non-azide driver inflator) type 5AT airbags and are not part of the current Takata airbag compulsory recall.
A statement from BMW Australia said the company has "decided to voluntarily conduct a safety recall in Australia because, based on what we know so far, a particular batch of Takata airbags may not function entirely correctly due to a manufacturing defect".
"We are currently checking this matter in more detail together with the Australian authorities. In addition, we are taking immediate steps to prevent the affected vehicles from being driven and implementing measures to minimise inconvenience to owners of those vehicles by providing alternative means of transportation," the statement continued.
BMW Australia confirmed it will "arrange a loan or hire car or reimbursement for alternative transportation costs until airbag replacement parts are available or until other arrangements are in place. Owners may also wish to discuss the vehicle being purchased back by BMW Australia".
BMW says 12,663 models from the 3 Series (E46) range in Australia – built from 21 November 1997 to 30 June 2000 – are affected.
The ACCC bulletin says if a BMW vehicle with an affected airbag is involved in a collision, “the airbag inflator could rupture, causing sharp metal fragments to enter the vehicle cabin at high speed and potentially killing or injuring vehicle occupants”.
BMW owners who are unsure of whether they are affected by this recall can check their vehicle’s identifying numbers (VIN) by on www.recall.bmw.com.au.
A statement from ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, says: “Because of the critical level of risk, the ACCC urges people to stop driving their vehicle immediately and to contact BMW to arrange to have their vehicle inspected as soon as possible.”
“BMW will arrange to tow your vehicle to repair facilities for inspection, or send a mobile technician out to your premises or v to inspect the vehicle.”
“If your vehicle has been fitted with one of these dangerous airbags, BMW will make further arrangements at no cost to you, such as arranging a loan or hire car, or agreeing to buy back the vehicle.”