Dangers that sparked the global Takata airbag recall may have seemed a world away for motorists in Australia, but two recent incidents have prompted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and consumer group Choice to act.
A women in the Northern Territory was injured when the airbag in her Toyota Rav4 deployed during a collision, and this month, a man in Sydney died from injuries believed to be caused by a faulty Takata airbag in his Honda CR-V.
The man's death brings the global toll from the Takata crisis to at least 18.
The safety concerns surrounding Takata airbags stem from the airbag’s metal inflator unit.
The unit and its propellant are susceptible to moisture absorption. Should the airbag be required during a collision, the unit may rupture, showering the vehicle occupants with metal fragments which may result in injury or even death.
Despite the recall reaching Australia in 2014, the uptake from around two million local car-owners could be as low as 33 percent.
As such, the ACCC and Choice have urged owners to have their vehicles serviced, and not simply ignore the recall.
But even those who have taken up the offer of a free replacement airbag (or two) may not be out of danger, as replacement units may also be susceptible to moisture absorption, meaning the same problems could be present after around five or six years.
Already in Australia, several carmakers have recalled models for a second time in an attempt to prevent a repeat recall in five years from now.
A Toyota Australia spokeswoman said some cars subject to the recall were fitted with airbags equipped with the original-style inflators.
"This action provided safety for a number of years, however due to exposure to the environment over time, these airbags will need to be replaced again," she said.
"Toyota has a rectification process in place for impacted customers. Going forward, for potential future recalls for certain models, we will continue to take actions as necessary, keeping the safety and security of our customers in mind."
Honda, the brand hit hardest by the recall, says it has used updated parts in every car recalled to address the issue.
But those cars may also need attention in the future.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released findings in July that found flaws in Takata inflators containing desiccant for the first time, as "testing data shows that the propellant in this inflator is degrading and on the path towards potential ruptures in the future".
The problem may lie with the moisture-sensitive nature of the ammonium nitrate chemical used in Takata inflators. Only one automotive company – FCA – has committed to replacing problematic parts with inflators built using different material.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims says motorists "should contact their manufacturer for advice as to what kind of airbag it was replaced with and how long it is expected to last".
"Car manufacturers and retailers must let consumers know when they are having their car's airbag replaced, what type of airbag it is being replaced with, and if it is likely to be the subject of another recall down the track," Mr Sims said.
"We're seeking information from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development as to exactly what information it is requiring car manufacturers and retailers to give consumers about their car's airbag, including the likelihood of the airbag being replaced again."
Tom Godfrey, a spokesman for consumer advocate Choice, says car companies are clearly "under pressure".
"However, refitting vehicles with the same dangerous airbags still leaves people driving ticking time-bombs," he said.
"While estimates of how long the dodgy Takata airbags take to break down vary, it's deeply concerning to think these bombs-in-a-bag lie in wait in many popular cars poised to explode their deadly shrapnel into unsuspecting victims."
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