Revelations of car makers swapping recalled Takata airbags with identical,
defective replacements have sparked an investigation by the Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The action comes less than 24 hours after CHOICE shared findings from a protracted investigation that found car makers are struggling to cope with the recall in Australia, resorting
to the like-for-like replacement of defective airbags in an effort to lower
the risk of injury or death.
Honda, BMW, Subaru, Toyota and Lexus are among the car companies that
confirmed to CHOICE they are making like-for-like replacements of defective
Takata airbags, with many other manufacturers declining to share this
information with the public.
"We would have very serious concerns if manufacturers were found to be
misleading consumers about their car's safety in breach of their
obligations under consumer law," says Rod Sims, the chair of the ACCC.
"Car manufacturers and retailers must let consumers know when they are
having their car's airbag replaced, what type of airbag it is being
replaced with, and if it is likely to be the subject of another recall down
the track," he adds.
The death of a 58-year-old Australian on 13 June was linked to a defective
Takata airbag, while a 21-year-old woman was sent to Royal Darwin Hospital
for more than two months after the Takata airbag in her car shot a piece of metal at
These incidents contribute to the growing number of 180 injuries and 18 deaths caused by the
airbags, which harm the very drivers and passengers they are designed to
The ACCC is "urgently seeking" information from the
government body overseeing the recall, the Department of Infrastructure and
Regional Development, and from more than a dozen car manufacturers affected
by the recall.
Approximately 2.3 million vehicles are affected in Australia as the airbags
have been fitted in almost sixty models of cars, including those sold by
Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus, Jeep, Nissan, Chrysler,
Dodge, Ferrari and Mazda.
It is estimated more than 850,000 vehicles have had their airbags replaced since 2009.
The worldwide recall of a hundred-million Takata airbags has proven to be a
logistical nightmare. A parts shortage, retrofitting issues and the
availability of authorised technicians able to fit the airbags has resulted
in the recall spreading over years.
Recall letters seen by CHOICE suggest customers are being asked to wait six
months for parts to be available. Takata estimates the recall won't be
complete until 2020, claiming its bankruptcy filing will have little impact
on it meeting the deadline.
The ACCC claims car manufacturers now have sufficient stock to fix affected
cars, however more vehicles will be added to the growing list of those
In the three months since CHOICE began investigating Takata airbags in
April 2017, approximately 250,000 additional cars have been fitted with
replacement airbags, though a further 200,000 were recalled by
Little awareness of the Takata recall – which in Australia, affects 21
times more vehicles than the VW dieselgate scandal – has meant many people
aren't taking their cars to manufacturers upon being told parts for their car are available.
Of the 2.3 million cars recalled, replacement airbags have been installed
The fault with Takata airbags is believed to develop over a period of time
due to exposure to moisture. Some replacement airbags have been treated
with a drying agent, known as desiccant, but these too may degrade,
requiring an additional recall for the airbags.
"If consumers have already had their airbag replaced, they should contact
their manufacturer for advice as to what kind of airbag it was replaced
with and how long it is expected to last," says Sims.