'It could kill people': 1.6 million drivers ignore airbag recall

Car owners have been urged to check their vehicles immediately, as 1.6 million Australian vehicles still contain deadly Takata airbags which have been linked to 24 deaths globally.

Over three million Australian vehicles were affected by the faulty air bags, and despite a compulsory government recall launched five months ago, less than half of the bags have been replaced.

“Originally there were 3.05 million vehicles affected. So 1.5 million have already had their bags replaced,” Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), told Yahoo7.

On Sunday, the FCAI launched an urgent campaign to remove the ticking time bombs from the remaining 1.6 million vehicles affected.

“There’s over 100 million vehicles worldwide with Takata airbags that need to be replaced,” Mr Weber said.

Millions of faulty Takata airbags remain in Australian cars, sparking concerns about whether vehicles are safe.
Due to a design defect, the faulty airbags may deploy with too much “explosive force” and potentially shoot out shrapnel. Source: Getty

“In an accident, when the airbag goes off, it can actually throw metal shards into the cabin and worldwide, that has resulted in 24 deaths and 266 serious injuries,” Mr Weber said.

In Australia, one death and one serious injury have been linked to the airbags, with approximately 2 in 7 vehicles affected said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Due to a design defect, the faulty airbags may deploy with too much “explosive force” so that “sharp metal fragments shoot out and hit vehicle occupants, potentially injuring or killing them”, according to the ACCC.

‘Don’t Die Wondering’ campaign launched

The ‘Don’t Die Wondering’ campaign runs across TV, newspaper, radio and digital and aims to replace all faulty air bags by the compulsory recall deadline of December 31, 2020.

“We’ve gone for this national advertising campaign and the associated website, which is ismyairbagsafe.com.au,” Mr Weber said.

“[T]hat gets you to put in your registration plate and state and then it will give you information on the status of your car and if it has affected Takata airbags,” he said.

The FCAI has launched an urgent campaign regarding the Takata faulty airbag recall amidst concerns about safety.
1.6 million vehicles still contain faulty Takata airbags and the FCAI has launched an urgent advertising campaign to get people to check their cars. Source: Getty

Private investigators used to track down people

The urgent campaign comes after a series of piecemeal attempts to contact owners.

“There’s been letters sent out to people, there’s been text messages, there’s private investigators have been used to track down people and tell them that they need to get their cars into dealerships,” Mr Weber said.

Owners of affected vehicles, have also received alarming text messages which urge drivers to replace their deadly airbags.

“It could kill/injure people in your vehicle,” one text message from Toyota Australia to a vehicle owner said.

“Please urgently call your closest/preferred Toyota Dealer or call to schedule a FREE airbag replacement,” the text message said.

Car owners have been urged to check whether their vehicles are on the recall list and have faulty Takata airbags amidst safety concerns.
Car owners have been urged to check whether their vehicles have Takata airbags through urgent text messages. Source: Supplied

The deadly airbags were recalled in Australia, by the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, on February 28, 2018. Before this, approximately 860,000 vehicles in Australia with defective Takata airbags were not part of the existing voluntary recall.

Is my airbag on recall list?

The Australian recall includes vehicles produced by FCAI member brands including Ford, GM Holden (including Opel and Saab), Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, BMW, Chrysler, Ferrari, Honda, Jeep, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.

The especially dangerous ‘Alpha’ version of the airbags, which present higher risk of explosion are still present in thousands of vehicles. The higher risk alpha airbags were installed in certain Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mazda and Lexus cars, with models sold between 2001 and 2004.

“There’s 19,500 Alpha airbags out there remaining,” Mr Weber said.

“There was around 100,000 originally, and there’s still 19,500 out there,” he said.

Drivers can go to www.IsMyAirbagSafe.com.au and enter their number plates and state, to see if their cars are affected by the airbag recall. Alternatively, car owners can text the word TAKATA to 0487 247 224 for more information.

“Everyone should take the opportunity to have their airbag replaced if it needs to be,” Mr Weber said.