The federal government says manufacturers have been too slow to replace the defective Takata airbags, so it has issued a compulsory recall to get them off Australian roads.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on February 28, 2018

More than 1 million vehicles on Australian roads right now are equipped with the dangerously defective Takata airbags.

Takata airbags have been linked to at least 23 deaths and 200 injuries world-wide, including one in Australia last year.

The airbags have been known to explode, and propel metal fragments towards the driver and passengers.

“The ammonium nitrate in them essentially dissolves the metal cylinder that encases the airbag and then when the airbag deploys it fires shrapnel at you and your family,” explains Tom Godfrey, spokesperson for consumer advocacy group Choice.

When the airbag deploys it fires shrapnel at you and your family.

As a result, the federal government has today announced its first compulsory recall of all Australian vehicles with the faulty airbag.

Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar told reporters today: “The recall will force manufacturers, dealers and other suppliers to ensure that all dangerous Takata airbags are located and replaced as quickly as possible.”

“They will be required to cover the full cost of replacing these airbags.”

The recall notice, proposed in September last year follows an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) safety investigation.

While several voluntary recalls have been issued, the federal government has found manufacturers have been too slow to act. In making the recall compulsory, all of the airbags should be replaced by 2020.

ACCC boss Rod Sims says only 1.3 million of the 2.3 million vehicles targeted in last year’s voluntary recall had their airbags replaced.

The ‘Alpha’ model of the Takata airbag is particularly dangerous.

Tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2016, showed that out of 245,000 airbags tested, 660 deployed defectively. The Alpha model, however, was found to rupture in up to 50% of deployments.

The US Department of Justice subsequently ruled that Japanese firm Takata “repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related to the safety of its products”.

“We’re pleased the Federal Government has stepped in because it’s a deadly problem that’s been going on for too long, and is one that needs to be taken extremely seriously,” Paul Turner, spokesperson for the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, said today.

“We know faulty Takata airbags can explode in the face of the driver and, sadly, we’ve already seen more than 200 serious injuries and 23 deaths around the world from these airbags.

“The last thing we need is for something that was designed to protect us, the airbag, to potentially cause our death.”

Federal Labor actually called for a compulsory recall in August last year, so it has taken six months for the Turnbull government to make it a matter of urgency.

“The sad thing about this is that this has been waiting in the wings for months and months,” opposition consumer affairs spokesman Tim Hammond told reporters in Canberra.

The airbags have been fitted to vehicles made by Ford, GM Holden, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, GMC, Honda, Jeep, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo and Hino Trucks.

Motorists are strongly advised to consult the full list on the ACCC website, and take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.