A CHOICE investigation into the largest automotive recall in Australian history has found Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Lexus and Subaru have been refitting vehicles with potentially faulty airbags and have failed to inform consumers of the ongoing risk of death or injury.
“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. However, refitting vehicles with the same dangerous airbags still leaves people driving ticking time-bombs,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.
CHOICE pressured the 14 manufacturers affected in Australia to reveal if they applied this temporary fix to the cars they have recalled. Many 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.“
“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,” Mr Godfrey says.
Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi all have vehicles impacted by the recall but are remaining silent about any potential ongoing risk to the public.
“We are also concerned by reports that consumers who respond to the recall and make contact with car companies are being told to wait in excess of six months before any form of remedy can be achieved,” says Mr Godfrey.
Police reports detail how these airbags violently explode, sending metal shards, shrapnel and/or foreign material into the cabin where the car’s occupants sit captive. The shards have been known to puncture people’s eyes, face, neck and chest.
“This is yet another wake up call for governments about the flaws in our product safety system,” Mr Godfrey says.
“It’s hard to understand how the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development could give their tick of approval to car companies who knowingly reinstall potentially lethal airbags and yet that is exactly what has happened.
“We need to end this product safety charade and make it a legal requirement for companies to ensure that the products they place in the market are safe. We believe the best way to achieve this is through the immediate introduction of a general safety provision coupled with strong penalties within the Australian Consumer Law.
“By introducing and enforcing a general safety provision, the regulator would be able to take swift and meaningful action against companies who knowingly put lives at risk,” says Mr Godfrey.
CHOICE is calling on all car companies involved in the flawed recall to come clean and inform the public about their like-for-like airbag replacement programs.
The revelations come as Federal, State and Territory consumer affairs ministers are set to meet next month to discuss the changes to the Australian Consumer Law. Among the proposed changes are the need for a general safety provision and the ability for consumers to assert a right to a refund after experiencing multiple minor failures with a product.
For more information go to: www.choice.com.au/takatarecall. Consumers can also join CHOICE’s call for a general safety provision and a stronger consumer law at: choice.com.au/consumerlaw.
Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669