Tens of thousands of motorists are driving around with faulty and potentially deadly airbags that need to be fixed immediately.
The ACCC has issued a warning to all motorists to check if their car is equipped with the recalled Takata airbag inflator unit and, if so, have it fixed before embarking on a Christmas holiday trip.
All affected brands are replacing the units free of charge and the process usually takes around two to three hours to complete, with some manufacturers sending technicians to remote locations to ensure all vehicles are fixed.
Of the 2.7 million voluntarily recalled airbags, 43,000 cars in Australia still contain the most dangerous ‘alpha’ airbag inflator which can rupture during deployment and scatter metal fragments into the cabin, potentially killing occupants. The deadly alpha inflators are installed in some models of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mazda and Lexus cars, sold in Australia from around 2001 to around 2004.
A Sydney man died in July this year from injuries sustained by a faulty airbag in an accident while driving a Honda CR-V.
The faulty airbags have so far been voluntarily recalled by Honda, Toyota, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus, Ferrari and Nissan. Honda sent out a graphic recall notice with the title “Choosing Not to Act Could Be Deadly” earlier this year. Three images show catastrophic airbag failure, including a puncture hole through the driver’s headrest.
Honda is just one of many manufacturers frustrated with the lack of initiative by affected vehicle owners. Beyond the potential for causing serious injury or even death, possible new legislation may also require affected vehicles are repaired before being allowed to be registered or legally sold.
The increase in road incidents around the end of year holiday period means the chance of a faulty inflator deploying is increased, even in a minor impact.
“We urge drivers of vehicles with alpha airbags installed to immediately book in to have their airbags replaced before driving anywhere over the Christmas holiday period. There is a significant and much higher risk of injury or death involved in driving vehicles fitted with these alpha airbags,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“As we approach the festive season, many of us are driving longer distances, so it is vital to act now to avoid a tragedy. If you have a car that contains an ‘alpha’ airbag, our advice is to not to drive it until the airbag has been replaced.”
Concerned vehicle owners can check if their vehicle is affected on the ACCC website. Manufacturers have also set up individual support centres and online services.
“If your vehicle has been recalled and it does not have an alpha airbag, it still needs to be replaced and you should contact your vehicle dealer or manufacturer to book in a time to have the defective Takata airbag replaced as soon as possible. Do not delay responding to a letter from your car’s manufacturer or retailer asking you to have your car’s airbag replaced,” Rickard said.