New effort to find 1.6 million cars with deadly airbags
MORE than 1.6 million cars still have potentially deadly airbags that have been linked to at least one death and one serious injury on Australian roads - as the latest figures show less than half the affected vehicles have been fixed.
The car industry has renewed calls for owners to bring in their vehicles and get affected airbags replaced free of charge.
A $6 million advertising campaign dubbed "Don't Die Wondering" aims to locate the remaining vehicles with potentially deadly Takata airbags, some of which have a 50-50 chance of spraying shrapnel in a crash.
In Australia the safety recall has affected more than 4 million faulty airbag inflators in 3.05 million cars. Some vehicles have more than one airbag that needs to be replaced, others need to have the same airbag replaced twice.
The faulty airbags have the potential to spray shrapnel after exploding with too much force when triggered by a collision.
The world's biggest automotive recall affects 100 million cars globally across 23 car manufacturers, including selected models from popular brands such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan and premium brands BMW, Mercedes and Ferrari.
Launching the website www.IsMyAirbagSafe.com.au the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said: "There have been 24 reported deaths and 266 injuries worldwide caused by … Takata airbag inflator ruptures, with one death and one serious injury reported in Australia."
Some Takata airbags are more volatile than others. The 'alpha'-type Takata airbags pose the greatest safety risk and have a one-in-two chance of spraying shrapnel when deployed in a crash.
Alpha airbag inflators were installed in certain BMW, Honda, Lexus, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota models sold between 2001 and 2004, the FCAI says.
"Some 19,500 vehicles in Australia still need to have their alpha airbag inflators replaced as a matter of utmost urgency," said Mr Weber. "In certain circumstances, there is a chance as high as one-in-two that these may rupture on deployment in a collision. These vehicles with alpha airbag inflators should not be driven and owners should immediately contact their manufacturer."
The advertising campaign and renewed efforts to find affected vehicles is part of an undertaking given to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to fix all affected vehicles by 31 December 2020.
Some car companies have hired private investigators to contact vehicle owners or retrieved faulty airbags from cars in wrecking yards.
Other measures include dealers being banned from selling used cars equipped with faulty airbags. The same restrictions do not apply to private sellers.
Mr Weber added: "It is vital that vehicle owners don't underestimate the seriousness of this national recall."
As reported by News Corp Australia last year, the registered owners of vehicles involved in the one fatality and one serious injury in Australia had been contacted multiple times about the recall but elected not to have the repairs done.
"We welcome the addition of industry's new web tool as an easy way for consumers to check if their vehicles are affected. The safety of drivers and their loved ones is at the heart of the recall and we welcome industry's efforts to improve consumer awareness," said ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard.
Experts say faulty Takata airbag inflators become more volatile after six years and when exposed to high temperatures and humidity levels.
The car industry is replacing the oldest, most volatile Takata airbags first before fixing newer vehicles.
"The worldwide shortage of replacement airbag inflators meant that it has been necessary for some vehicles to undergo an interim fix with brand new Takata airbag inflators. These airbag inflators used for the interim fix do not pose any immediate risk but will need to be replaced again before they are six years old," the FCAI says.
Motorists can check if their vehicles are affected via www.IsMyAirbagSafe.com.au or text the word "Takata" to 0487 AIRBAG (0487 247 224) for further advice.
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This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling