As many as one-in-two cars with Takata’s older ‘Alpha’ model airbags have a defect that could cause serious injury or death, consumer group Choice has warned.
- Around 50,000 Takata Alpha airbags still need replacing, 100,000 replaced
- Alpha model failure rate as high as one-in-two, versus one-in-400 for other Takata airbags
- Takata airbags have been liked to 17 deaths, including one in Australia
Choice has warned that the 50,000 cars with Takata’s Alpha airbags are even more likely to be lethally defective than the others being recalled.
It is the latest escalation in a recall of 2.35 million cars across Australia fitted with airbags manufactured by Japanese automotive parts company Takata.
Faulty Takata airbags are already linked to 17 deaths globally and are the subject of the biggest recall in global automotive history.
There has been one death in Australia connected with the airbags, as well as at least one injury.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said drivers should take affected cars in for repairs immediately.
“The only trip I would consider making if I owned one of those 50,000 cars with suspect airbags would be driving to the repairer to get them replaced,” she said.
Although the ACCC said the drivers of any affected cars, even those with newer Takata airbags, should have them repaired as a matter of urgency.
The ACCC has been directed by the federal Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher to form a taskforce to look at how Australian car manufacturers, dealers and consumers are progressing with the recall, which struck problems earlier this year with a shortage of parts and repairers.
Ms Rickard said the ACCC is trying to get a really clear picture of the recall.
“To see whether the voluntary recall is adequate or whether or not we need to recommend to the minister that a mandatory recall be put in place,” she said.
Recall and repairs taking too long: consumer groups
Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said the 50,000 vehicles affected are popular models within the ranges of Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Honda and Nissan.
“The car companies have remained silent about the heightened risk of Alpha airbags,” he said.
“Standard Takata airbags fail one-in-400 times, but these Alpha airbags, the failure rate is one-in-two.
“In the US, Honda has told drivers not to drive these cars, they are offering towing services, and yet in Australia the car companies have remained silent.”
Deaths linked to Takata airbags
- 2009: One death in the US
- 2013: One death in the US
- 2014: One death in Malaysia, two in the US
- 2015: Four deaths in the US
- 2016: Three deaths in the US, four in Malaysia
- 2017: One death in Australia
Sources: AP archives, Center for Auto Safety, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Honda Motor Co., legal documents and police reports
Peter Khoury from NSW motorist group the NRMA said car manufacturers need to do more, especially with the number of Alpha airbag cars still being driven.
“It is very concerning. We want them taken out and fixed,” he said.
“Whatever the manufacturers can do to make it easier for drivers should be done. If this means providing replacement cars or rental cars so be it.
“The costs should not be a factor here — they [car companies] sold the cars, they made profits off the cars, the cars are unsafe so they have to fix them.
“This needs to be a priority, it has taken way too long.”
Ms Rickard agreed that repairs for the Alpha airbags are not being done quickly enough.
“There were around 150,000 of those Alpha airbag cars,” she said.
“About 100,000 have been remedied but that still leaves a very concerning 50,000 out there to be remedied.”
In a written statement, Honda director Stephen Collins has rejected claims the company is not communicating adequately with its customers.
“Honda Australia has always acted on the most accurate and up-to-date Takata information available and shared this immediately with our customers,” he said.
“The Alpha inflator recall is defined by a particular manufacturing defect and this information has been passed on to our customers.
“This included warnings about the risk of potential death and injury from the faulty airbags.”
The ACCC has recommended going to its productsafety.gov.au website for a list of all models affected.