Kiwi mo­torists fac­ing airbag ‘time bomb’

Wairarapa News - - FARMING - ROB MAETZIG

Tens of thou­sands of New Zealand ve­hi­cle own­ers are putting them­selves at risk by not both­er­ing to fix faulty airbags in their cars.

More than 140,000 Kiwi ve­hi­cle own­ers have been ad­vised by let­ter that re­place­ment in­fla­tors have ar­rived in New Zealand as part of a world­wide re­call in­volv­ing faulty and po­ten­tially lethal Takata airbags.

But fewer than 50 per cent of the own­ers have both­ered tak­ing in their ve­hi­cles for the fix – de­spite the fact some of them have re­ceived the same let­ter up to five times urg­ing them to get the job done.

This is so frus­trat­ing of­fi­cials so much that they have es­tab­lished a joint Mo­tor In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion and New Zealand Trans­port Agency work­ing group that will meet next week to work out ways to force the mo­torists to make their ve­hi­cle avail­able for the fix. A likely out­come may be an im­me­di­ate change to the rules so that af­fected ve­hi­cles can be ‘‘ban flagged’’ when checked for their next war­rant of fit­ness – this would give own­ers 20 days to get their airbags fixed, or fail their WoF, which would ban them from be­ing driven.

‘‘This Takata airbag is­sue is a time bomb wait­ing to blow,’’ said MIA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer David Craw­ford.

‘‘The longer time goes by, at some point in the fu­ture one of these faulty airbags is go­ing to go off poorly.

‘‘We are pro­gres­sively get­ting the re­place­ment in­fla­tors. But how many times should the car com­pa­nies write to the ve­hi­cle own­ers – and then have to wait? We ar­gue that once all rea­son­able steps have been taken to get the af­fected cars in for the fix, we should then be able to is­sue the flag at WoF time.’’ Mil­lions of airbags supplied by Ja­panese au­to­mo­tive parts man­u­fac­turer Takata Cor­po­ra­tion have in­fla­tors con­tain­ing am­mo­nium ni­trate, a chem­i­cal which causes a small ex­plo­sion that in­flates the airbags. Some of the airbags can in­flate with too much force, blow­ing apart the in­fla­tors and send­ing shards of metal fly­ing at driv­ers and pas­sen­gers.

This has caused dozens of in­juries and at least 19 deaths world­wide – in­clud­ing one in Sydney in July.

As a re­sult, in the largest au­to­mo­tive re­call in his­tory close to 100 mil­lion ve­hi­cles world­wide are hav­ing their in­fla­tors re­placed, in­clud­ing at least 300,000 in New Zealand. Al­most all the car com­pa­nies are af­fected, in­clud­ing Toy­ota, Mazda, Honda, Nis­san, BMWand Subaru, and they are all now re­call­ing ve­hi­cles to get re­place­ment in­fla­tors in­stalled.

The sheer size of the world­wide re­call, and the fact it in­volves thou­sands of dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cle makes and mod­els, means the sup­ply of re­place­ment parts is a slow process.

In New Zealand, it is es­ti­mated it will be at least another year before suf­fi­cient sup­plies ar­rive for the re­call to be com­pleted – if the ve­hi­cle own­ers can be both­ered tak­ing their cars in to be fixed.

‘‘That’s the big frus­tra­tion. The in­dus­try has sent out 140,000 let­ters – which ob­vi­ously in­di­cates that many re­place­ment parts have ar­rived – but we’re not get­ting the re­sponse from the ve­hi­cle own­ers, and that means the re­call close-out rate is run­ning at less than 50 per cent,’’ Craw­ford said. ‘‘We’ve reached the stage where we don’t want to give the ve­hi­cle own­ers a choice any more. Ei­ther they have the fix done, or a hold is put on the ve­hi­cle at WoF time.’’

The Takata airbag re­call – 140,000 New Zealand ve­hi­cle own­ers have been asked to take their cars in for the fix, but less than 50 per cent have both­ered to do so.

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