Source: ACCC Takata airbag recalls list and ACCC future Takata airbag recalls.
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Why are Takata airbags being recalled?
Takata, a Japanese safety-parts manufacturer, has had its defective airbags installed in more than a hundred million cars worldwide. These airbags use ammonium nitrate to inflate, but the chemical compound degrades when it's exposed to moisture. In a defective Takata airbag deployment, the ammonium nitrate burns aggressively, shattering its metal canister and shooting shards of metal at the people seated in the car.
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 are known to have misfired, along with the United States and Malaysia. A 21-year-old woman was hospitalised in a 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?
A US Department of Justice ruling in January 2017 said Takata "repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related
to the safety of its products". 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 will I hear if my car is recalled?
From 1 July 2018 all manufacturers are required to have accurate,
up-to-date information available on their own websites detailing which cars are
affected and their recall status, including VIN lookup information.
Owners of affected cars, however, should contact the manufacturer as soon
Manufacturers have been contacting affected owners 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.
It's best to be proactive, rather than wait for 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?
Four million cars are now on the Takata airbags recall lists, making it the largest vehicle-related recall in Australian history. Out of these, 1.9 million cars have had their airbags replaced.
There's also a further estimated 25,000 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?
The recall has been made compulsory by the federal government, but 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 in many parts of Australia). 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 since 2009, but there are still an estimated 25,000 cars driving with these airbags as of May 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. See the CHOICE report on alpha airbags, the faults they sustained and the risks they pose.
Should I ask to have my Takata airbag disabled?
No. Airbags are a vital piece of safety equipment. The NHTSA estimates they saved 2400 lives in 2014 alone. For every 400 Takata airbag deployments, one ruptures. This means the airbag functions as designed in the other 399 cases.
However, these statistics relate to all Takata airbags excluding early model alpha inflators. Alpha inflators rupture in one of two airbag deployments, and if you drive one of the remaining 25,000 vehicles they are still installed in, it is advised you do not drive it at all and contact the manufacturer immediately to arrange a repair.
How long will I have to wait for a replacement airbag?
According to the ACCC, the replacements are delayed by a combination of
factors including the availability of bags and having enough qualified
repairers to refit them, as well as the enormous number of cars
involved. The ones that represent the highest risk are being prioritised.
Nonetheless, 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 follow. The deadline to fix these airbags is 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 airbags in Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars are being replaced 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 fares 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 than 24-hours to replace a defective airbag.
Meanwhile, the 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, 28 May, 2018: These FAQs were updated to reflect the new car models added to the ACCC's recall list and the planned dates of future recalls.
Update, 19 March: These FAQs were 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.