Nearly 200,000 potentially deadly Takata airbags remain on Australian roads unchecked – and 8000 are deemed so risky, owners have been asked to stop driving their cars immediately to have the vehicles bought back by the manufacturer.
Road safety authorities in Australia are baffled by thousands of car owners who are ignoring multiple recall notices and face-to-face attempts to contact them about the free repair.
Some car companies have hired private investigators to track down cars, while others have chartered private planes to visit remote islands and deserts across the country to fix isolated vehicles.
And yet still thousands of customers are refusing to get their deadly Takata airbags replaced.
Industry insiders claim some customers believe the recall is part of some elaborate scheme to trick motorists into an expensive service. The Takata airbag safety campaign, as with all recalls, is free.
Most states in Australia have introduced a ban on the re-registration or sale of cars with certain types of Takata airbags, as a way to force the vehicles to get repaired.
There are now three main types of Takata airbags at risk in various vehicles made since the mid 1990s through to 2017.
Depending on the type of Takata airbag, there is between a 1 in 100 chance – and a 50:50 chance – of spraying shrapnel when deployed in a crash.
At least four deaths and an unknown number of serious injuries have been attributed to various types of Takata airbag failures in Australia.
Globally there have been at least 29 deaths and more than 320 serious injuries recorded.
The Takata safety campaign has become Australia’s first compulsory recall, meaning car companies face penalties if they don’t meet the completion deadline of 31 December 2020.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which is over-seeing the Takata recall, is yet to outline the cost of the penalties or if there will be an extension to the deadline due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Car dealerships across Australia have been allowed to remain open during the coronavirus crisis, in part because recall work is crucial to road safety.
“Even during this pandemic, replacing faulty airbags is an essential and potentially life-saving task, especially as vehicles may be being used by essential workers and care-givers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a media statement.
“It will also be more important than ever that as more people start to use their cars again, they check that their airbags are safe. Affected Takata airbags can (deploy incorrectly) and send sharp metal fragments into the vehicle at high speed, and cause serious injury or death to its occupants.”
The ACCC said more than 4 million airbags in more than 3 million vehicles were originally affected by the Takata compulsory recall in Australia, from a batch of 100 million vehicles worldwide.
“More than 88 per cent of airbags have now been rectified, and about six per cent have been reported by suppliers as written-off, stolen, unregistered, exported or modified and unable to be replaced,” the ACCC media bulletin said.
Figures from the ACCC’s latest quarterly update on the compulsory recall show about 5 per cent (more than 228,000) of potentially deadly Takata airbags remain in more than 196,000 vehicles.
“In particular, motorists are in danger if they have a critical vehicle containing an airbag that poses a heightened risk of causing injury or death,” the ACCC said.
“There still more than 8000 of these vehicles remaining on the roads, and drivers can check the Product Safety Australia website if their vehicle is affected. Vehicles with critical airbags should not be driven,” the ACCC said.
Motorists can search for vehicles affected by the Takata compulsory recall by entering their number plate and state or territory at: IsMyAirbagSafe.com.au or by texting 'Takata' to 0487 AIRBAG (247224).
A list of vehicle manufacturer helplines and contact details is available at: Vehicle manufacturer helplines & contact details.
Takata airbag fast facts:
- In total about 3.62 million airbag inflators (88.1 per cent) have now been rectified in about 2.64 million vehicles.
- This excludes 259,025 airbag inflators (6.3 per cent) in 216,138 vehicles reported by suppliers as unrepairable (written off, scrapped, stolen, or modified and unable to have the airbag replaced).
- There remains 228,764 airbag inflators (5.6 per cent) in 196,299 vehicles outstanding for replacement.
- As at 31 March 2020, there are 1,895 vehicles with critical-alpha airbags and 6,471 vehicles with critical non-Alpha airbags outstanding for replacement.
- Vehicles with critical airbags should not be driven, and drivers are entitled to have their vehicles towed to the dealership to have the airbag replaced for free.
- The Takata airbag recall is the world’s largest automotive recall, affecting an estimated 100 million vehicles globally.
- It is the most significant compulsory recall in Australia’s history, with more than 4 million affected Takata airbag inflators and involving more than 3 million vehicles.
- Takata airbags affected by the compulsory recall use a chemical called phase-stabilised ammonium nitrate (PSAN). The ACCC’s investigation concluded that certain types of Takata PSAN airbags have a design defect. The defect may cause the airbag to deploy with too much explosive force so that sharp metal fragments shoot out and hit vehicle occupants, potentially injuring or killing them.
- In addition to the compulsory recall of vehicles fitted with Takata PSAN airbags, eight vehicle manufacturers have also issued voluntary recalls for approximately 77,000 vehicles manufactured between 1996 and 2000, which may have been fitted with a different type of faulty Takata airbag, being a NADI airbag.