Have these airbags led to injuries or fatalities?
There have been 23 documented deaths globally and 207 injuries in the US alone linked to Takata airbags. The serious injuries so far include the loss of eyesight, facial injuries, lacerations to the face, neck and body, severed vocal cords, spinal damage and head injuries that include brain damage.
Australia is one of three countries where Takata airbags misfire, after the United States and Malaysia. A 21-year-old woman was hospitalised in serious condition for months in April of 2017, and in the following July, a 58-year-old man was tragically killed.
But the tally of victims is likely to be under-reported because first responders and investigators might not trace the injuries and fatalities back to the airbag in a serious crash.
How did this happen?
Takata "repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related
to the safety of its products" a US Department of Justice
ruling in January 2017. This fudging of paperwork meant the airbags – which don't meet the standards set by manufacturers – were fitted in
cars that were sold worldwide for more than a decade.
How do I know if my car has Takata-manufactured airbags?
The first step is to identify if your car is affected by the recall. A list
of the vehicles currently on recall is available on the
Product Safety Australia website.
This list of affected cars is constantly growing.
The number of affected vehicles was 2.1 million when we first published the findings of our investigation in July 2017, but eight months on, the number of affected cars has surged to 4 million.
How will I hear if my car is recalled?
Manufacturers have been contacting affected owners, though it has been mostly by mail. Many of
the manufacturers we spoke to say it's hardest tracking down older
cars – which are also the cars that are most vulnerable. This is because
they change owners when sold, or end up in wrecking yards. If the car you
own was purchased second hand, check if it's recalled by visiting the
Product Safety Australia website or by directly contacting the manufacturer.
But it's best to be proactive, rather than wait for traditional snail mail. Make the call and contact your manufacturer, and if you're getting a replacement, be sure to ask if it's another Takata airbag that'll need to be recalled again in the future.
Is the recall free or will it cost me?
The recall is free as the cost is covered by the manufacturer.
How many cars are affected?
As of 9 March 2018, four million cars have been recalled due to Takata airbags, making it the largest vehicle-related recall in Australian history. Out of these, 1.7 million cars have had their airbags replaced.
There's also a further 27,000 cars still driving on the road with Takata 'alpha' inflators. These are early versions of the airbags that sustained defects when they were being manufactured, resulting in them misfiring in up to 50% of cases.
Can my car have a Takata airbag and not be recalled?
This is the case until 2 April 2018, now that the recall has been made compulsory by the federal government. But the recall prioritises the oldest and most vulnerable airbags, so cars younger than six-years-old may not be repaired until December 2020, which is when the recall is scheduled to be completed.
How often do the airbags rupture?
Tests were conducted by US safety body, the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA), in September of 2016. Out of 245,000
airbags tested, 660 deployed defectively. This works out to one airbag failure for every 400 deployments.
The frequency of a defective deployment depends on a number of factors.
Investigations concluded that the ammonium nitrate propellant deteriorates as it
ages, and that this process happens quicker in climates that are hotter and
more humid (characteristics not uncommon to the Australian outback). Takata
claims it can take 12.5 years for the airbags to turn dangerous, while the
NHTSA estimates it takes six years in the worst of scenarios.
This differs for Alpha model airbags, which can rupture in up to 50% of
What are Alpha model inflators (airbags)? Should I stop driving my car if it has
Alpha inflators are first-generation versions of Takata airbags that sustained a range of defects at the time they were manufactured. They are among the oldest, are most susceptible to degradation and have a significantly higher rate of rupturing upon deployment.
These airbags can rupture in up to 50% of deployments, compared to the 0.27% of ruptures that happen to the airbags manufactured to specification.
An estimated 155,000 of these airbags have been recalled as early as 2009, but there is still 27,000 cars driving with these airbags as of March 2018, in more than two dozen models offered by Honda, Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mazda and Nissan.
These airbags were responsible for eight-out-of-ten Takata related deaths in the US as of June 2017. CHOICE reported extensively on alpha airbags, the faults they sustained and the risks they pose here.
Should I ask to have my Takata airbag disabled?
No. Airbags are a vital piece of safety equipment. The NHTSA estimates they saved 2,400 lives in 2014 alone. For every 400 Takata airbag deployments, one ruptures. This means the airbag functions as designed in 399 of cases.
However, these statistics relate to all Takata airbags other than early model Alpha inflators. Alpha inflators rupture in one-of-two airbag deployments, and if you drive one of the remaining 27,000 vehicles they are still installed in, it is advised you do not drive it whatsoever, unless it is to a dealership for a repair.
How long will I have to wait for a replacement airbag?
Now that the recall has been declared compulsory, car manufacturers have to follow a timetable or face possible fines of $1.1 million.
Alpha airbags remain the top priority. Carmakers have to replace them within five days of receiving a replacement airbag.
Airbags that are older than six-years-old follow. The deadline to fix these airbags are not as clear, though carmakers will have to make sure they complete a percentage of them or face possible fines.
Cars that are younger than six-years-old rank lower in priority. They will have to be repaired by December 2020, which is when Takata will wind down production for replacement airbags.
Could my airbag be replaced with a new version of the
Defective Takata airbags have been replaced with identical defective Takata
airbags, in some cases. This is being used as a temporary fix, swapping
older airbags that have likely degraded with fresh iterations, in a move that lowers the risk of a defective deployment. These airbags too will have to be
Car manufacturers – including Toyota, Lexus, Subaru, Mazda, BMW and Honda – have
confirmed they made like-for-like replacements in a fraction of
cars. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirms Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars replace the airbags with iterations from a different manufacturer.
But most other car companies chose not to share
this information with the public when we asked.
Will I get a refund or loan car under the compulsory recall ?
Loan cars, taxi fare and even tows have been included under the compulsory recall, though it depends on particular circumstances.
You are entitled to a loan car or taxi fare if a dealership takes longer 24-hours to replace a defective airbag.
Meanwhile, the 27,000 people who have a car fitted with an alpha airbag have the right to request their car be towed to the dealer. Alternatively, a dealer can instead send out a technician to replace the airbag on site.
When is the recall likely to be complete?
Takata says the recall will be complete by December 2020, but it is possible the recall could be extended.
Read our full investigation into Takata
Update, 19 March: This FAQs was updated to reflect the increasing number of fatalities and injuries. We also added information on the additional rights consumers are entitled now that the recall has been made mandatory.