Government acts to recall vehicles with airbag safety issues

50,000 vehicles with Alpha-type Takata airbags are subject to a compulsory recall after Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi today acted to protect New Zealand drivers and passengers from the unsafe airbags.

The new measures put in place by Mr Faafoi include intensive monitoring of a further 257,000 vehicles also requiring repairs to replace non-Alpha Takata airbags. NZ Transport Agency is also introducing new measures to stop vehicles with affected airbags that have not been remedied from being imported to New Zealand.

“New Zealanders can be assured that this Government is committed to ensuring that these unsafe airbags are removed and replaced as quickly as possible,” says Mr Faafoi. “These airbags have been known to be a risk since 2013 yet the previous Government clearly did not place any importance on keeping New Zealanders safe.

“From today, we now have an agreed timeframe for replacements of Alpha-type airbags, and, after a 40 working day grace period for vehicles already in transit,  no affected new or used vehicles will be able to enter into New Zealand.

“Further, because I am not satisfied that enough progress has been made on other non-Alpha Takata airbag recalls, I have set up a monitoring group that will report monthly on this. If enough progress isn’t made, I will enact a compulsory recall across the board because I am not willing to compromise on the safety of New Zealanders.”

A voluntary recall of vehicles with affected Takata airbags started in New Zealand in 2013, and around 29,000 of the Alpha-type airbags have been replaced. Alpha airbag inflators pose a significantly higher risk of misdeploying in an accident and sending fragments towards vehicle occupants.

A further 257,000 vehicles are subject to a recall for non-Alpha Takata airbags, with a further 116,000 non-Alpha airbags replaced already. A total of more than 450,000 vehicles are known to be affected by Alpha and non-Alpha recalls in New Zealand, and 100 million globally.

Mr Faafoi says the new compulsory recall is focussed on Alpha-type Takata airbags because they present the highest safety risk to drivers and passengers.

“The motor vehicle industry has recalled vehicles with the Takata airbags with varying degrees of success but more must be done to ensure that the highest risk Alpha-type airbags are removed from our vehicle fleet.”

Mr Faafoi says he is pleased that the Motor Industry Association (MIA), which represents new vehicle importers, and the Vehicle Industry Association (VIA), which represents multiple players in the used vehicle importing business, are supporting the new measures.

“I would like to acknowledge the effort some of the new vehicle sellers have made – both in replacing airbags in vehicles they have sold as new and in replacing airbags in vehicles from their marque which were imported by other parties.

“The MIA and VIA are working towards a memorandum of understanding to ensure this work is able to be appropriately resourced and, importantly for the consumer, completed as soon as possible.”

The compulsory recall is only the second enacted in New Zealand, and requires Alpha-type airbags to be replaced by December 2019. It also provides clear guidance and reporting and monitoring to ensure all the necessary recall and remediation work on all vehicles that have Alpha type airbags is undertaken.

“As well as receiving monthly reporting from a monitoring and advisory panel, we will be working very closely with industry to ensure they meet the 31 December 2019 deadline for replacement,” Mr Faafoi says.

The compulsory recall comes into effect 40 working days from today. The recall will be led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, supported by the NZ Transport Agency.

“I encourage all vehicle owners to check the status of their vehicles airbags. MBIE’s recalls.govt.nz website has information on how to do this and we will, within days, have a website detailing all affected cars.

“While I have been reassured by officials that the risk in New Zealand is comparably low – airbags are more of a concern in humid countries with extremes of temperature – I am not willing to allow any risk to remain while we can remove it.

“MBIE and NZTA will be working across the sector, and with agencies including Citizens Advice Bureau, Consumer New Zealand and the AA to reach as many people as possible and have this important vehicle safety issue addressed.”

The monitoring and advisory panel includes representatives from Consumer New Zealand, the Automobile Association (AA), the Motor Trade Association (MTA), MIA, VIA, MBIE and NZTA.

Background information:

Takata air bag inflators are safety devices installed in various makes of vehicle to protect occupants in the event of an accident.

In 2008, incidents involving incorrect deployment of Takata air bag inflators were reported in USA and since then have been associated with 23 deaths globally (including 1 in Australia) and 230 reported serious injuries.  

Globally around 100 million vehicles are affected by the wider Takata airbag recall. The Alpha airbags were an early type of airbag made by Takata and have a significantly higher rate of failure due to a manufacturing fault.