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Takata recall not simply a ‘car industry’ issue
Tougher regs needed to rid Australia of lethal airbags as recall deadline looms
6 Aug 2020
By TERRY MARTIN
THE Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says responsibility for removing vehicles with potentially lethal Takata airbags from our roads once the deadline for the compulsory recall expires on December 31 this year will be a matter for government to address through tougher regulation.
There is now less than five months left for vehicle manufacturers to meet their obligations to replace the remaining airbags, which according to the latest figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are still fitted in more than 155,000 vehicles.
The total number of airbags still requiring replacement is about 180,000, of which more than 6000 are the especially deadly Alpha (or similar) airbags – the type deemed most likely to shoot metal fragments into the cabin upon deployment.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, some 40,000 vehicles had their airbags replaced over a three-month period ending June 30, and a further 2250 vehicles were identified as no longer on the road.
But even at this completion rate, which is expected to slow between now and the end of the year, Australia will be left with many thousands of affected vehicles still in circulation once the deadline is reached.
In an interview with GoAuto, FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the car industry has done everything it can to remove the airbags from our roads and that it will be incumbent on government to take further action such as forcibly deregistering all affected vehicles.
“We’re working on the basis that we will have this completed by the end of December 2020,” Mr Weber said.
“We’re not looking for an extension; we’re looking to get this finished. We had a job to do and we’ve taken it extremely seriously and we will do it.
“And we expect everyone else, including regulators, to also do their job and get it fixed.
“We want everyone to take this seriously – whether it’s consumers, or whether it’s people within government – we need to all address this because this is not a ‘car industry’ issue by itself.
“This is a public health issue that needs to be addressed, and everyone needs to take it seriously.”
When asked to specify the measures that regulatory authorities should put in place to ensure a full completion rate, Mr Weber said forcibly deregistering vehicles – as has already occurred with those fitted with Alpha-type airbags – and taking further steps to locate affected vehicles were obvious first steps.
“They need to deregister cars when people refuse to come in. They need to give information about where these cars are,” he said.
“The important message to consumers is: This is about your health, the health of other people, and the safety of people who ride in your vehicle. This is absolutely free, and people need to get their airbags replaced.
“By January 1, I believe that we will have met our obligations under the recall notice. Most of the airbags will have been replaced. People who refuse to have their airbags replaced, we cannot steal their cars and replace them.
“We’ve gone an incredibly long way to addressing the issue.”
As well as deregistering vehicles with Alpha-type airbags, some states and territories have also moved to prevent reregistration of any unregistered vehicles unless there is evidence that the affected airbag has been replaced.
In the latest update on the progress of the recall (issued on July 31), ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said: “There are only six months left for manufacturers to meet their replacement obligations, and while the compulsory recall is progressing well, it is important to get these remaining deadly airbags off our roads.
“Checking ismyairbagsafe.com.au to see if your vehicle is affected, and getting the airbag replaced if it is, is an essential step to preventing more deaths and injuries.
“It is essential that you do not ignore or delay responding to notices about the recalls from your manufacturer. If your vehicle is under active recall, please act now to arrange for a free replacement.
“If your vehicle contains a ‘critical’ airbag, you should stop driving it immediately and contact the manufacturer to arrange for it to be towed or a technician to be sent to you so the airbag can be replaced.”
ACCC data shows that as at June 30, 2020, some 3.66 million airbag inflators (89.2%) had been rectified in about 2.68 million vehicles (87.8%).
This leaves 180,869 airbag inflators (4.4%) in 155,351 vehicles (5.1%) remaining for replacement.
An additional 262,725 airbags (6.4%) in 218,393 vehicles (7.1%) were reported by suppliers as unrepairable – that is, written off, unregistered for more than two years, exported, scrapped, stolen, or modified and unable to have the airbag replaced.
There are 1334 vehicles with critical Alpha airbags and 4718 vehicles with critical non-Alpha airbags outstanding for replacement.
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