MANDATORY RECALL: 2.3 million cars to be affected
MILLIONS of cars will today be hit with Australia's first compulsory vehicle recall order, as the Turnbull Government moves to protect drivers and their passengers at risk from exploding airbags.
The government will announce the unprecedented step amid serious concerns that airbags in many brands of popular cars can shoot shards of metal into the faces of occupants.
Some 2.3 million cars on Australian roads have the defective Takata airbags, which have been linked to more than 23 deaths and 230 injuries around the world.
In Australia, all those airbags must now be replaced within two years.
The Herald Sun can reveal manufacturers of the nation's most popular cars, including Ford, Holden and Volkswagen, will be forced to replace the dodgy airbags for free, and "as quickly as possible".
The at-risk airbags contain inflators that use ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound which degrades over time when exposed to moisture, potentially setting them off.
The recall is expected to spark inconvenience for millions of families, but sources said the government felt the dangers were so significant that the drastic action was unavoidable.
It is believed to be one of the largest consumer recalls ever seen in Australia, and follows voluntary recalls of 1.7 million vehicles late last year by car makers including Toyota, Mazda and Honda.
The exact years and models of the latest cars identified as a safety risk will be revealed when Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, issues the recall this morning,
More than 100 million vehicles worldwide have been caught up in the safety nightmare, which has already claimed the life of one Australian.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission made a formal recommendation to the federal government to issue a compulsory recall for a range of European vehicles that have so far been excluded from the crisis.
Absolute priority will be given to replacing Takata's Alpha model of airbags, said to pose an immediate and critical safety risk.
Drivers are warned if their vehicle has an Alpha airbag, there is an "extreme safety risk" and the vehicle should not be driven.
Injuries documented around the world include the loss of eyesight, facial injuries, lacerations to the face, neck and body, severed vocal cords, spinal damage and head injuries that include brain damage.
The Herald Sun understands that while almost one in five passenger vehicles have now been recalled, the voluntary recall process has not been totally effective.
Authorities are also concerned some manufacturers have not taken satisfactory action to address the safety risk, which arises after the airbags are more than six years old. Manufacturers are required to progressively identify their recalls and replace airbags in affected vehicles over the next two years.
All defective Takata airbags will need to be replaced by December 2020, with priority of replacement given to airbags based on factors including age.
About four million vehicles nationwide are believed to be fitted with defective Takata airbags. Other marques involved include Skoda, Land Rover, Audi, Tesla, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.
Around 1.7 million vehicles have already had airbags replaced including 90,000 Alpha airbags.
An additional 1.3 million cars will be included in the compulsory recall and, with another one million vehicles recalled but yet to be replaced, there are still 2.3 million with defective airbags on the road.
About 25,000 of these are understood to have the Alpha airbags.
Australia is one of three countries where a Takata airbag has killed a driver, along with the United States and Malaysia.
The US Department of Justice found last year that Takata "repeatedly and systematically" fudged critical test data related to the safety of its products, meaning the airbags were fitted in cars sold worldwide for a decade.
FIX THIS RISK WITH NO DELAY
MOTORISTS are being urged to check if their car has been added to the list of millions of vehicles with dodgy airbags.
The government-ordered recall, to be announced today, will force car makers and dealerships nationwide to replace all defective Takata airbags.
The at-risk airbags contain inflators that use ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound which degrades over time when exposed to moisture.
Under the terms of the order, manufacturers must cover the cost of replacing airbags. They must also make arrangements for towing or transporting vehicles and, in some circumstances, provide loan or hire cars during the replacement process.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which is handling the recall, will today publish a list of all makes and models at risk. Some manufacturers began contacting affected owners last year.
But the Turnbull Government has moved on a compulsory recall amid fears the replacement process is not happening fast enough.
All faulty airbags must be replaced by the end of 2020, but the pressure in on manufacturers to immediately deal with about 25,000 vehicles fitted with the most dangerous type, Takata's Alpha airbags.
The other priority is vehicles six years and older.
The safety risk occurs after six years from the date of manufacture of the airbag.
If motorists are concerned about continuing to drive their affected car, authorities say they should contact a dealership or the manufacturers to make arrangements for the repairs.
The ACCC has set an April 2 deadline for manufacturers to provide details of the additional recalled vehicles.
The consumer watchdog expects manufacturers to immediately replace all at-risk inflators that may present a safety risk.
Consumer group Choice has warned that some drivers will have to wait at least six months amid likely parts shortages, retrofitting issues and insufficient workers trained to install the airbags.
But the ACCC says manufacturers should be replacing airbags without delay.
It has encouraged car owners to report any long delays.
Owners of some European models affected have complained that they are being told by dealers that safe airbags are "out of stock".