An investigation has been launched by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) following the largest vehicle recall in history.
It comes after five car companies have confirmed to the consumer advocacy group CHOICE that they are making “like-for-like” replacements of defective airbags made by the Japanese manufacturer Takata.
Honda, BMW, Subaru, Toyota and Lexus are among the companies to have come forward – while many other manufacturers are said to have declined to share this information publicly.
The watchdog also confirmed that the airbag is responsible for 18 fatalities and 180 injuries.
A man in New South Wales was killed on July 13 when his airbag mis-deployed, according to the ACCC, while a woman in the Northern Territory suffered severe injuries from her airbag after a crash in April.
“Do not ignore or delay responding to a letter from your car’s manufacturer or retailer asking you to have your car’s airbag replaced,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.
“The airbags degrade over time and can become lethal by misdeploying and firing metal shards at the car’s occupants.”
Since 2009, 2.3 million vehicles in Australia have become subject to the recall of airbags made by Takata.
The airbags are in 60 makes of cars sold in Australia, including Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus, Jeep, Nissan, Chrysler, and Dodge.
In Australia, 850,000 cars have already had their airbags replaced although a further 1.4 million Australian cars are being driven with defective airbags
“We’re seeking information from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development as to exactly what information it is requiring car manufacturers and retailers to give consumers about their car’s airbag, including the likelihood of the airbag being replaced again,” Sims said.
“We would have very serious concerns if manufacturers were found to be misleading consumers about their car’s safety in breach of their obligations under consumer law.”
According to the ACCC, progress on the recall was “initially slow” but is “improving over time” as stock becomes available.
Car manufacturers say there is now sufficient stock available for affected cars to be fixed.
The ACCC says it will closely examine the current recall strategies employed by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) to ensure each manufacturer is complying with its obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.
“If consumers have already had their airbag replaced, they should contact their manufacturer for advice as to what kind of airbag it was replaced with and how long it is expected to last,” Sims added.
Takata has apologised for the “widespread concern and inconvenience caused as a result of our inflators”.