Why cars with deadly airbags are still being sold

With only a third of faulty Takata airbags in Australian cars having been replaced, the recall of the remaining 1.8 million vehicles has hit a setback with the revelation affected cars are still being sold.

While the ACCC’s compulsory recall means car dealers with affected vehicles are subject to the recall, private sellers of used cars aren’t.

This means they have no obligation to tell potential customers purchasing faulty cars about the recall.

An ACCC spokesperson told Yahoo7 News that it isn’t a legal requirement for private sellers to inform buyers of faulty airbags due to the onus being placed on the car’s manufacturer.

“Private sellers are not subject to the notice because they are not acting in trade or commerce, as per the Australian Consumer Law,” the ACCC spokesperson said.

Over 1.1 million Takata airbags have been replaced so far in Australia. Source: Getty
Over 1.1 million Takata airbags have been replaced so far in Australia. Source: Getty

“Manufacturers are required to support dealers when consumers bring in their vehicles to be fixed, but the requirements of dealers are limited to communication and not supplying cars under active recall until their airbags are fixed.”

The original suppliers of the affected vehicles have a legal obligation to inform motorists with potentially faulty cars and would be held accountable if vehicles were not recalled by December 2020.

“Any failure to do so can result in enforcement and penalties,” the ACCC spokesperson said.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, told Yahoo7 News in July that the airbags were responsible for 24 deaths worldwide and one in Australia due to metal shards ejected when the airbag is activated.

Calls for action from State governments to identify faulty vehicles

David Blackhall, the chief executive of the Australian Automotive Dealer Association, told News Corp that with the current recall there will always be faulty airbags on Australia’s roads.

“There will be cars with lethal airbags in them that will never, ever be replaced,” he said.

Mr Blackhall suggested the ACCC and state governments should actively pursue vehicles with faulty airbags by performing registration checks and “red flagging” vehicles.

The biggest concern lies in “alpha” airbags, which were fitted to about 115,000 cars. Around 19,500 still potentially on the roads.

Metal fragments from the Takata airbag have proven to be deadly. Source: Getty
Metal fragments from the airbag have proven to be deadly. Source: Getty

“Make no mistake, these airbags can kill and our advice is for consumers to check our website to see if there car is affected by this recall,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“If your car contains an alpha airbag, it should not be driven.”

And despite dealers of used cars falling under the recall, VACC industry policy adviser Michael McKenna revealed a handful of dealers had come to him seeking advice after selling affected vehicle, News Corp reported.

Not only can dealers face hefty fines over such practice, if someone is injured as a result of a faulty vehicle sold, the dealer would be liable for the accident and could face prosecution.

Mr Blackhall said there was “absolutely no excuse” for dealers selling affected cars due to the high-profile nature of the mass recall.

“Businesses must not sell cars that are under active recall before having the defective Takata airbag replaced,” an ACCC spokesperson told Yahoo7 News.

“Businesses that fail to do so may face penalties for non-compliance with the compulsory recall.”

Ms Rickard has since welcomed the introduction of the website www.ismyairbagsafe.com.au where car owners are able to check their vehicles.