Things move slowly down in Australia, or more specifically with the Australian Government. I first wrote about the airbag recall in December 2014 that was affecting the Takata brand of airbags, and have written about the progress over the years.
Today, the Australian Government hit the panic button and forced a compulsory recall on all manufacturers and then let the media spread the panic, which some started to do with great gusto naming the affected cars and warning drivers that they are in great danger. All except for the Sydney Morning Herald who clearly didn’t get the memo from the Government, they just ignored the story. Perhaps if a civil servant had leaked it, they might have run with it!
Interestingly on the evening news it was announced that the full list of cars affected wouldn’t be available until April – could someone not talk with the NHTSA in the US and the European Commission, get their lists, merge them and bingo, you have the full list including the Japanese marques. It really isn’t that hard, but then we are talking about civil servants aren’t we.
Despite the manufacturers doing what they can, the Government has now taken advice from the ACCC (the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission) who have decided that cars are very dangerous and advised the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer who announced the recall. According to the ACCC statement, it appeared to the Minister “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.”
So the Assistant Minister, having read the “extensive research” done by the ACCC has ignored several facts with this recall. The biggest and most glaring is that for many manufacturers, they lose connection with the car once it leaves it’s warranty period and is on sold to a new owner, and in the case of the age of the cars involved, could have been through many owners. Now, the Government could help here: they could provide documented evidence of who the current owners are via the State registration schemes – if that doesn’t break privacy laws.
The comment about “reasonably foreseeable use of vehicles may cause injury” is frankly wrong. The issue arises when unforeseeable incidents arise that trigger the airbag. The airbag will not explode in a foreseeable way.
It does seem that the chosen way to get the message out is to involve the media and spread the word. This is a method that has clearly failed for the past three or more years and is doubtless going to fail again.
The other issue that has to be considered (and may have been for a nanosecond) is that there is currently a worldwide shortage of airbags for the replacements. The factories are consuming most of the production for new vehicles and larger, more populous countries will have precedence for sure. Maybe that is why the Government has given the manufacturers two years to fix the problem – however the manufacturer can apply to extend if it wants to.
The ACCC did acknowledge that the problem has been ongoing for many years and that 63% of affected vehicles had already been fixed (as long as they have been fitted with the very latest airbags because earlier replacements were also defective).
Now here is where Governments can really make a mess of things. In their definition they state that the “supplier” is the manufacturer of the vehicle and the “dealer” is where the consumer bought the vehicle. However, they also go on to state that these have a different meaning within Australian Consumer Law! This is going to cause confusion, because in some cases, the manufacturer is not the supplier – the importer is – and they may not be legally connected to the company who built the vehicle.
The Government has just come out of a few weeks of bad press and this announcement may be a deflection to make them look like they are actually doing something. I just hope that they will work in partnership with the manufacturers and importers to help find the remaining cars and that enough product is imported to resolve the problems.