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Car companies fail to warn about 50,000 deadly airbags

Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Honda and Nissan still to alert 50,000 of heightened risk of death or injury from Takata's potentially lethal "alpha" airbags

15 August 2017

CHOICE's Takata airbag investigation has now revealed five car companies have continuously failed to alert car owners about the heightened risk they face from the company's potentially deadly "alpha" airbags and is calling on the Federal Government to initiate a mandatory recall.

"Although most Takaka airbags have a failure rate of about 1-in-400, the 'alpha' airbags are the oldest, aged 11 to 16 years, and have been shown to fail in up to 1-­in­-2 deployments," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey.

"The fact is 'alpha' airbags are significantly more dangerous than other recalled Takata airbags, so it is deeply concerning that Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Honda and Nissan are still to inform car owners of the heightened risk they face."

The latest revelation comes after CHOICE last month caught out Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Lexus and Subaru fitting like-­for­‐like faulty airbags. 

"It is clear car companies have failed to effectively alert tens-­of-­thousands of consumers to the critical nature of the issue they face under the current voluntary recall. It's

time the Federal Government initiated a mandatory recall to give consumers the information they need," Mr Godfrey says.

"Today we're also calling on Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Honda and Nissan to urgently notify the more than 50,000 car owners who are unknowingly sitting in front of a high risk 'alpha' airbag. With a failure rate as high as 1-in-2, car owners have a right to know the true nature of the danger they face," says Mr Godfrey.

CHOICE's investigation has also found car owners face waiting periods of 6 months or more as car makers struggle with parts shortages, retrofitting issues and insufficient people trained to install new airbags.

"It's worrying that consumers are being forced to wait an unreasonably long time before receiving a repair for this serious safety failure," Mr Godfrey says.

"At minimum we think car makers in Australia should offer consumers with 'alpha' airbags towing services and loan vehicles to make sure these cars are not on the roads at all.

Oddly, Honda only offers these services to affected consumers in the United States but hasn't the same support to Australians.

"It's crystal clear that car companies have proven they cannot be trusted to run this recall effectively. The Federal Government needs to get in the driver's seat and institute a mandatory recall.

"A mandatory recall would give a regulator the power to make sure that everyone affected by this terrible recall gets clear and accurate information about the real risk they face. It would also give a regulator greater ability to put pressure on car companies lagging on recall rates," says Mr Godfrey.

For more information go to: choice.com.au/airbagwarning

Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media: 0430 172 669

Tips

  • Check productsafety.gov.au
  • Contact your car company to arrange a repair
  • If you are unhappy waiting for a repair lodge a complaint with Fair Trading or consumer affairs in your state or territory

Safety campaign

CHOICE would like to avoid a similar situation happening in the future and will lobby for a safety provision in the Australian Consumer Law that protects all customers. Consumers can also join CHOICE's call for a general safety provision and a stronger consumer law at: choice.com.au/consumerlaw.

Background

Defective Takata airbags have caused at least 18 injuries and 180 deaths worldwide, including the recent death of an Australian. There are an estimated 1.5 million vehicles fitted with the recalled airbags still on Australian roads. Testing revealed Takaka airbags have a failure rate of about 1-in-400. "Alpha" Takata airbags have a much higher failure rate, up to 1-in-2.