Shrapnel propelled by a faulty Takata airbag. Photo: Supplied

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David McCowen | Feb, 28 2018 | 0 Comments

The Federal Government has pushed forward with mandatory recalls of 2.3 million vehicles fitted with potentially deadly airbags.

Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, issued an industry-first compulsory recall notice for defective Takata airbag components that can rupture when triggered, propelling shrapnel throughout a car’s cabin.

“The safety of all Australians is the highest priority of the Federal Government,” Mr Sukkar said.

“Vehicles fitted with defective Takata airbags have caused injuries and fatalities.

“Worldwide, there have been at least 23 deaths and over 230 serious injuries reported as associated with defective Takata airbags. In Australia last year, a man was tragically killed and a woman was seriously injured.”

The action will force reluctant manufacturers to add vehicles previously considered safe to Australia’s largest-ever recalls.

While car makers such as Holden, Mercedes and Volkswagen told the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) airbags present in popular models including the Ford Ranger ute pose little risk to consumers, the Turnbull Government will push ahead and ask car companies to replace 1.3 million airbags in dozens of popular models.

An ACCC recommendation for recall action presented to Mr Sukkar said evidence presented by car companies “is unreliable or inconclusive” and manufacturers “have clearly not taken satisfactory action to avoid risk of injury”.

The 1.3 million cars set to be added to the campaign join 1 million vehicles already voluntarily recalled but not yet repaired.

Many car makers have struggled to get customers to respond to recall notices, prompting them to turn to social media and national advertising campaigns. Some brands have struggled to source replacement parts for millions of cars affected by the issue, leaving customers to wait several months before cars are fixed.

Manufacturers including BMW, Mazda and Mitsubishi have already called for state road authorities to block people from registering vehicles still equipped with potentially dangerous airbags.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, peak body for Australia’s car industry, did not welcome the ACCC’s initial proposal for mandatory recalls in 2017. FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said at the time the consumer watchdog’s approach was “just absurd” and that “I don’t believe there is any need whatsoever for a mandatory recall”.

A statement released by the FCAI on Tuesday said the industry “will strictly adhere” to conditions imposed by a mandatory recall.

“Since 2015 the industry has repeatedly advised the ACCC that access to the vehicle registration database held by state and territory authorities would be the most effective tool in locating affected owners and achieving a higher recall completion rate,” the statement said.

“However, the ACCC has failed to progress this course of action in almost three years.”

All defective Takata airbags will need to be replaced by 31 December 2020, and car makers are required to publish regular progress reports. Replacement airbags are free for customers.

Full details: Productsafety.gov.au

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