The federal government has made the recall of Takata airbags compulsory,
resulting in it overseeing the efforts of 25 manufacturers, as the total number of
cars affected swells to four million.
The first-ever mandatory recall for vehicles in
Australia will affect 2.3 million cars that are yet to have the faulty airbag replaced. Of those, 1.3 million had not been voluntarily recalled by nine
companies, including Ford, GM Holden and Volkswagen.
The announcement comes seven months after a CHOICE investigation revealed that recall efforts had stalled, with some mainstream manufacturers having
repaired as little as 11% and 12% of affected cars.
A mandatory recall was needed after car makers failed to adequately deal
with the voluntary recall, says Michael Sukkar, assistant minister to the Treasurer.
"While almost one in five passenger vehicles on Australian roads have now
been recalled, the voluntary recall process has not been effective in some
cases, and some manufacturers have not taken satisfactory action to address
the serious safety risk which arises after the airbags are more than six
years old," he says.
"To ensure a coordinated recall, over the next two years manufacturers will
be required to progressively identify their recalls and replace airbags in
Many of the formal recommendations made by the ACCC have been dismissed by
the government, including the right to a refund in certain cases and the prescription to fix within one month any airbags that are older than six years.
But consumers will be given rights under the compulsory recall.
These include a loan car or taxi fare for customers who have to leave their
car at a dealership for more than 24 hours.
Special provisions have also been made for the remaining 25,000 cars that
are fitted with early "alpha" Takata airbags. Owners can request these cars
be towed to the dealership or have a technician fix them on site.
Manufacturers will have to follow a strict schedule to have cars repaired.
Cars in areas of high heat and humidity – factors that make the airbags
break down quicker – are of the highest priority, followed by cars that
are older than six years, and then cars with affected driver airbags.
The government has given manufacturers until July 2018 to publish a recall
schedule and a searchable database, and all affected airbags are expected
to be fixed as per Takata's timeline, by December 2020.
Takata airbags contain a chemical that turns volatile over time.
Approximately 1-in-400 deployments results in metal shards being shot at
drivers (or passengers) as the airbags deploy.
The odds of explosion are significantly higher for early versions of the airbags, known
as 'alpha' versions. An earlier CHOICE investigation revealed these have a
failure rate as high as one-in-two.
Meanwhile, the tally of victims continues to rise. It is understood 23 people worldwide have
been killed by the airbags to date, with 230 people sustaining injuries as
severe as blinding, paralysis and severed vocal chords.
In Australia, a 21-year-old woman was hospitalised in serious condition for
months, and a 58-year-old man was tragically killed.