Automotive dealers have seized on the recall of over half of a million Australian cars with defective airbags to raise safety concerns about the Coalition’s proposal to allow Australians to import their own cars.
Japanese parts supplier Takata yesterday bowed to pressure from regulators and admitted for the first time there were defects in the company’s airbag inflators which can cause them to explode and send shrapnel flying into cars.
Airbag recall- what you should know
Six deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the problem, sparking a global recall. The admission has led to the largest automotive recall in US history with almost 34 million vehicles potentially affected.
Cabinet has spooked automotive dealers by last month agreeing to consider allowing personal imports of overseas vehicles provided they met domestic safety standards.
Australian Automotive Dealers Association chief executive Patrick Tessier today said that, under the government’s proposal to allow personal imports, offshore dealers would be less likely to contact buyers in the event of a recall.
“A PIV (personally imported vehicle) purchased outside the authorised dealer network would not be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty and could not be traced in the event of a recall,” Mr Tessier said.
“Will the government take responsibility for and bear the costs of ensuring defects such as faulty airbags are remedied?”
Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs last month said the government also wanted to harmonise Australian standards with international guidelines “as quickly as possible”.
“We want Australians to have access to the best possible vehicle fleet, the safest vehicle fleet and the cheapest vehicle fleet they can get access to. We want a competitive market,” he told The Australian.
Toyota Australia has ordered the recall of 181,000 cars as part of a global recall of more than five million Toyotas which have been fitted with the airbags.
Honda Australia has this week recalled 131,775 cars in Australia in addition to the 33,434 vehicles recalled last year over the issue, bringing the total number of Hondas recalled in Australia with Takata airbags to 188,000.
Toyota Australia says its recall will affect vehicles built between 2003 and 2007 and includes its Yaris, Corolla, Avensis Verso, Echo and Rav4 models.
“These recalls are due to the potential that, depending on the vehicle, either the drivers or passengers airbag inflators may be susceptible to moisture intrusion over time,” Toyota Australia said in a statement on Wednesday.
“If this happens, this could potentially make the inflator assembly prone to rupture during an accident, increasing the risk of injury to the occupant.
“There have been no incidents or injuries reported in Australia as a result of this condition.” Toyota is offering a free replacement for the part.
The company announced on Wednesday it was recalling 26,050 cars in New Zealand over the possible airbag fault.
Takata supplies airbags to a number of manufacturers, including Toyota’s rival Nissan which has also been forced to call back 1.56 million vehicles worldwide over the fault.