BMW is believed to be the first car company in Australia to buy back a batch of used cars affected by a recall of potentially deadly Takata airbags.
Earlier this month BMW and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a warning pleading with owners of 12,663 BMWs to stop driving their cars immediately following a fatality and a serious injury crash suspected of being linked to a new type of Takata airbag not previously recalled.
Other fatalities and serious injuries had also been reported overseas on BMW 3 Series models made from November 1997 to June 2000. In Australia the case involving the fatality is still before the coroner.
When the warning was issued, BMW and the ACCC said remedies included providing a loan vehicle, a rental car, paying for taxis or buying back affected models.
BMW Australia would not disclose exactly how many cars have been bought back since the recall was published two-and-a-half weeks ago.
However the boss of BMW Australia, Vikram Pawah, confirmed the buybacks have started.
“Yes we have, we have already bought a few,” he said when asked by CarAdvice how many vehicles have been bought back so far. “I can’t give you number right now … we are working with each and every individual right now.”
He added: “The numbers are still coming in… we’re in the process of connecting customers and providing them with a solution to get them mobile at the moment”.
The BMW boss insisted dealers are were not getting overwhelmed with long queues of concerned customers scrambling for a loan car, and that the process has so far been orderly.
When asked if the bought back BMWs will be crushed – or eventually fixed and resold – the BMW Australia boss said: “We will make those decisions as we go along, nothing to share at this point.”
BMW and the ACCC took the drastic action to have owners stop driving affected cars immediately because this type of Takata airbag – in 12,663 vehicles – had not previously been caught up in the recall affecting 3.8 million airbags in Australia and more than 100 million worldwide.
BMW models in this age range were recently involved in two separate crashes, one a fatality and one a serious injury. These two incidents brought the total number of fatalities related to Takata airbags in Australia to two and the number of serious injuries to two.
However, authorities believe there may have been more deaths or serious injuries related to faulty Takata airbags – which can spray shrapnel when deployed in a crash – that may have been unreported.
One example yet to be formally linked to the Takata recall is a crash in Canberra in 2014, uncovered by The Sydney Morning Herald last year.
The male passenger of a 2005-model BMW suffered severe lacerations to his face after the airbag was deployed in a crash.
The owner of the BMW received a recall notice months later, but before the Takata safety campaign received global recognition.
BMW owners who are unsure of whether they are affected by this recall can check their vehicle’s identifying numbers (VIN) by checking www.recall.bmw.com.au.