AT LEAST five major car manufacturers have caught refitting vehicles with potentially faulty airbags, leaving people driving ticking “time bombs”.
A three-month Choice investigation has revealed Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Lexus and Subaru have been refitting vehicles with the potentially faulty airbags through a flawed recall process.
The consumer advocacy group had also found the companies have failed to inform consumers of the ongoing risk of death or injury.
The revelation comes as motorists are being urged to check whether they are driving cars containing potentially deadly airbags, after a faulty model was blamed for killing a man in a Sydney crash.
Police said a faulty airbag was likely to blame for the July 13 tragedy after the driver was “struck in the neck by a small fragment”.
Choice said the faulty Takata airbag has been linked to 18 deaths worldwide.
The dodgy Takata airbags, which can explode and launch metal shards when deployed, have also been linked to at least 180 injuries.
Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey slammed the manufacturers for fitting faulty airbags, warning drivers were the ones being put at risk.
“With 2.3 million vehicles in Australia requiring their potentially lethal Takata airbags to be replaced, it’s clear the car companies are under pressure to fulfil their obligations under Australian consumer law,” he said.
“However, refitting vehicles with the same dangerous airbags still leaves people driving ticking time-bombs.”
Choice approached 14 manufacturers in Australia and asked whether this temporary fix has been applied to the cars recalled.
It said several confirmed a percentage were treated with like-for-like replacements and will therefore have to be recalled again.
“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,” Mr Godfrey said.
“Although Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Lexus and Subaru admitted to Choice they made identical replacements, perhaps more worrying are the other manufacturers who continue to refuse to share this information with the public.”
Choice also singled out Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi, which all have vehicles impacted by the recall, and “remaining silent” about any potential ongoing risk to the public.
Choice also said it was concerning some consumers faced a six month wait before the situation was fixed.
Choice said consumers could expect their faulty airbags to be replaced in a reasonable amount of time and said they could lodge a complaint with the Department of Fair Trade if this didn’t occur.
The Takata airbag recall in Australia is more than 21 times bigger than that of the VW “Dieselgate” debacle.
Choice also found only 31 per cent of 2.3 million affected vehicles have had their potentially lethal airbags replaced as of April this year.
In a brief statement on its website, Takata apologised over the widespread concern and inconvenience caused as a result of its inflators and urged drivers to check if their vehicles were under recall.
It said the recall is not expected to be completed until the end of 2019, the ABC reported.
Choice insisted the recall should serve as a wake-up call to the government about the flaws in product safety systems.
Police reports reveal how these airbags have violently exploded, sending metal shards, shrapnel and/or foreign material into the car.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has confirmed it is investigating the Takata airbag recall.
It said it was urgently seeking information from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) and car manufacturers regarding the airbags, which are “at the centre of the largest vehicle recall in history”.
More than 2.3 million vehicles across the country have become subject to the recall of airbags made by the Japanese manufacturer whose airbags are fitting in cars sold in Australia, including Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus, Jeep, Nissan, Chrysler, and Dodge.
“Do not ignore or delay responding to a letter from your car’s manufacturer or retailer asking you to have your car’s airbag replaced,” he said.
“The airbags degrade over time and can become lethal by misdeploying and firing metal shards at the car’s occupants.”
The ACCC is urging all drivers to check if their car’s airbag is has been recalled by visiting productsafety.gov.au.
In a statement given to the ABC, Toyota confirmed it had used Takata products as replacement parts in some cases.
“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,” it said.
However just two days ago, Ford announced it was fighting the latest expansion of the Takata airbag inflator recall, the Associated Press reported.
It had filed documents with the US government adding 2.7 million vehicles to the recall from Ford, Nissan and Mazda.
All have inflators with a drying agent that previously were thought to be safe.
But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that Takata tests showed the inflator propellant can degrade and will pose a safety risk if the inflators aren’t replaced.
While Nissan agreed to recall about 515,000 Versa cars, Ford and Mazda filed petitions to avoid a recall.