Takata airbag

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Takata airbags recall good for consumers

Paul Smith, Head of Testing at Consumer NZ

The compulsory recall of more than 50,000 vehicles fitted with potentially explosive Takata airbags will provide clarity for New Zealanders, Consumer NZ head of testing Paul Smith said today.

Manufacturers and importers have 18 months to close out repairs on affected vehicles.

The recall was previously voluntary, covering about 452,000 vehicles with more than 307,000 yet to be fixed. That’s a poor return for a recall ongoing for almost five years.

The compulsory recall applies to vehicles fitted with older “alpha” generation airbags, while the remaining vehicles remain under voluntary recall.

Dr Paul Smith said: “Making the recall compulsory will provide clarity for consumers over whether their car is affected and reassure them that the riskiest airbags are being prioritised. It sends a clear message to the industry they haven’t been acting swiftly enough to protect Kiwi motorists.”

“Not all Takata airbags will explode on deployment, in fact it’s unlikely – a one in 400 risk is reported globally. But the older ‘alpha’ airbags, fitted to cars manufactured between 2001 and 2006, are more dangerous – tests have shown there’s a chance every other deployment could be explosive.”

The compulsory recall makes manufacturers and importers responsible for the fix and sets a timeline of 18 months to close out repairs on all vehicles fitted with “alpha” airbags. It also prohibits further import of vehicles with these airbags.

What’s the Takata problem?

Airbags manufactured by the Japanese Takata company, fitted to about 100 million vehicles worldwide, are potentially defective. The airbag inflator can be adversely affected by moisture, with the result being it could deploy with explosive force when in a crash. In the worst cases they have sent metal shards flying into the passenger cabin. Faulty Takata airbags have caused a reported 23 deaths and more than 230 injuries worldwide. No explosive deployments, injuries or fatalities have been reported here.

Manufacturers have been recalling vehicles with these faulty airbags since 2013. It isn’t just cheap or Japanese vehicles – the list includes most European manufacturers and luxury models from brands such as Ferrari and Jaguar.

The risk of failure is greatest if the car’s in a hot and humid environment. Recalls in Australia and the US have prioritised vehicles in areas of highest heat and humidity. We enjoy a temperate climate, so failure here is less likely, even for the oldest airbags.

But we have an old vehicle fleet by international standards – the average car on our roads was manufactured in 2004. That explains why we have twice as many alpha airbags on our roads awaiting repair than the Australians do on theirs – despite their recall covering 10 times as many Takata-equipped cars. So the risk shouldn’t be ignored.

Drivers affected by the compulsory recall will get a letter from the manufacturer or importer when parts are available to fix their car. Dr Smith advises, “if you get a letter – you need to act. Take your car to be fixed, it’ll cost you nothing.”

Consumer NZ advises owners of cars manufactured between 2001 and 2006, to contact the manufacturer (for NZ-new cars) or importer (for used-imports) – don’t wait for a letter to arrive. It can be difficult to track down the importer, so go to the dealer you bought the car from – they should be able to help, and might even be the importer.

Consumer NZ members affected by the recall can contact the Advice Line for assistance 0800 CONSUMER (0800 266 786).

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MIA welcomes mandatory airbag recall

David Crawford, Chief Executive Officer of the MIA says ‘the Takata airbag recall is unprecedented in scale, it is a massively large and complex logistical issue affecting new and used vehicles with two different types of Takata airbags. The alpha type airbag inflator fitted to vehicles between 2001 and 2006 is more at risk of failure if activated than other types of Takata airbag inflators. Completion of the recall will require the cooperation of government and industry to undertake and the MIA welcomes the Government’s decision to make the alpha type airbag recall mandatory.’

David Crawford, chief executive officer of the MIA

The MIA undertook a stocktake of affected vehicles in New Zealand during March which revealed that there are around 11,280 New Zealand new vehicles with the alpha type inflator of which 6,485 have had the inflator replaced with 4,795 remaining to be completed. However, there are now 68,116 used vehicles with the alpha type inflator and while 22,494 vehicles had had the inflator replaced, there remains another 45,622 to be completed.

The issue is exacerbated by importers of used vehicles who have continued to import vehicles which have not had recalls closed out in the country they are sourcing their vehicles from. Mostly these vehicles have been proceeding through import compliance without checking and then on-sold to unsuspecting New Zealand consumers. It is then left up to New Zealand distributors to try and identify these vehicles and endeavour to manage a recall.

Contrary to common misunderstanding, under New Zealand legislation New Zealand distributors of new vehicles are not obliged to undertake recalls of used imported vehicles. New Zealand consumer legislation places consumer obligations, including recalls, on the supplier of the goods, which in this case is the importer of the used vehicle. The MIA is not opposing imports of used vehicles, but these vehicles should not be on-sold to consumers with outstanding (open) recalls.

The MIA has a code of practice which encourages New Zealand Distributors to recall used imported vehicles when these vehicles have been imported prior to a recall being announced. However, the continued importation of used vehicles with a known recall in the market vehicles are being sourced from, places an unacceptable burden on consumers.

MIA welcomes the Government’s decision to prevent any vehicle with an open recall from passing compliance and entry into the New Zealand fleet.


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