About the compulsory Takata airbag recall

The Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar has issued a compulsory recall for all vehicles with defective Takata airbags, following an ACCC safety investigation.

See also: COVID-19: Takata compulsory and NADI 5-AT recalls

Compulsory recall

The Minister decided to issue a compulsory recall because, based on extensive evidence provided by the ACCC, it appeared to him that:

  • a reasonably foreseeable use of vehicles with defective Takata airbags may cause injury to drivers and/or passengers, and
  • one or more suppliers of vehicles with defective Takata airbags have not taken satisfactory action to prevent those vehicles causing injury to drivers and/or passengers.

32 reported deaths and over 350 injuries worldwide. One death and one serious injury reported in Australia.

The Takata airbag recall is the world’s largest automotive recall, affecting an estimated 100 million vehicles globally. It is the most significant compulsory recall in Australia’s history, with over four million affected Takata airbag inflators and involving more than three million vehicle recalls.

The compulsory recall applies to:

  • all vehicles that are subject to existing Takata voluntary recalls, and
  • approximately 1.3 million additional vehicles that have not been voluntarily recalled.

The compulsory recall requires suppliers of vehicles with defective Takata airbags to replace all defective Takata airbags in Australian vehicles by 31 December 2020 (or later in some instances if approved by the ACCC). Some vehicles will be recalled immediately, and others on a rolling basis, scheduled based on various factors including relative safety risk. This means that not all vehicles will be recalled straight away.

Takata airbag design defect

Certain types of airbags made by Takata Corporation use a chemical called phase-stabilised ammonium nitrate (PSAN) as a propellant. The ACCC’s investigation concluded that Takata PSAN airbags without a desiccant (or drying agent) or with a calcium sulphate desiccant have a design defect. Due to the defect, as the airbag ages and is exposed to high temperatures and humidity, the PSAN propellant is exposed to moisture and degrades. If this happens, when the airbag is triggered and deploys (in a collision), it may deploy with too much explosive force, rupturing the airbag inflator housing so that sharp metal fragments shoot out and hit vehicle occupants, potentially injuring or killing them.

Globally, ruptures of defective Takata airbags have been associated with at least 32 deaths and over 350 injuries. In Australia, one person has been killed and another seriously injured in separate incidents involving defective Takata airbags.

The defect is located in the airbag inflator and so it may not be necessary to replace the entire airbag system to eliminate the safety risk.

Critical airbags including alpha

Consumers need to take immediate steps to have their airbags replaced if their car has a critical Takata airbag, including the ‘alpha’ category airbag. Critical airbags pose a heightened safety risk and are a subset of the Takata bags being recalled.

See: Takata critical (including alpha) airbags require immediate replacement

Previous voluntary recalls

A number of vehicle suppliers in Australia have voluntarily recalled approximately 2.7 million vehicles containing defective Takata airbags since 2009. The voluntary recalls sought to replace affected Takata airbags in recalled vehicles.

As at January 2018, the overall replacement rate for all voluntary recalls was only approximately 63 per cent of the total number of affected vehicles under voluntary recall in Australia.

Replacement rates for individual suppliers conducting voluntary recalls varied significantly, ranging from between 36 per cent to over 84 per cent. Four suppliers had replacement rates of less than 50 per cent of vehicles subject to their voluntary recalls.

Prior to the compulsory recall, however, not all vehicles with defective Takata airbags were recalled. Approximately 860,000 vehicles in Australia with defective Takata airbags were not under voluntary recall.

Suppliers and dealers

Generally speaking, under this compulsory recall, a supplier is the company who manufactured the vehicle and a dealer is where you bought it. These terms have a different meaning more broadly, under the Australian Consumer Law and generally.

Under the compulsory recall, a vehicle’s supplier is the first person to supply a vehicle with a defective Takata airbag into Australia. In most cases this will be the Australian office of the vehicle manufacturer. Another type of supplier is a business that imports and supplies vehicles from overseas that are not generally available for purchase in Australia, known as ‘grey’ or parallel imports.

A dealer is not a supplier for the purposes of the compulsory recall obligations, but a supplier may use its dealer network to perform some of the actions required by the compulsory recall (such as replacement of the Takata airbag).

Supplier obligations

The compulsory recall requires suppliers to:

  • Recall all affected vehicles on a rolling basis and replace the airbag at no cost to the consumer, with priority given to replacement of those airbags that present the highest safety risk. Recalls must be initiated as soon as possible.
  • Complete all replacements by 31 December 2020, unless that date is varied by application to the ACCC.
  • Contact consumers directly when recall action is initiated for their vehicle (under ‘active recall’).
  • Publish a VIN search tool on their website by 1 July 2018 that allows consumers to identify if their vehicle is affected by the recall and if so, whether the vehicle is under active recall.
  • Publish a recall initiation schedule on their website as soon as practicable and by no later than 1 July 2018. The schedule will advise consumers with an affected vehicle when their vehicle will be recalled. Vehicles under ‘active recall’ can have their affected Takata airbags replaced straight away. Consumers with vehicles subject to ‘future recall’ will be notified by the supplier when it is time to have their airbag replaced (and they can also find their vehicle in the supplier’s recall initiation schedule).
  • Notify the ACCC via the Product Safety Website when active recall is initiated for a new category of vehicle.
  • Make arrangements for towing or transporting a vehicle or providing loan or hire cars during the replacement process in certain circumstances.

See: Timeline of supplier actions

What should drivers do?

Drivers are urged to check whether their vehicle is affected, and if so, whether it is under active or future recall. If a consumer finds that their vehicle is under active recall, then they are urged to contact the supplier to arrange replacement of the affected Takata airbag as soon as possible. Suppliers will provide instructions on their website to assist consumers.

As not all vehicles may be recalled straight away, consumers should also subscribe to receive updates about future recalls on our website and check the supplier’s recall initiation schedule on the supplier’s website, when available (it must be available by no later than 1 July 2018).

See: What drivers should do

The Checkout investigates

ABC TV The Checkout's Craig Reucassel looks into the consumer issues facing thousands of people who need to get their defective airbags replaced.

More information

FAQ for Takata airbag recalls
Takata recalls progress data
Consumer Goods (Motor Vehicles with Affected Takata Airbag Inflators and Specified Spare Parts) Recall Notice 2018
Explanatory statement (Takata)
Compulsory recall of vehicles fitted with defective Takata airbags - Minister’s media release