The compulsory Takata airbag recall has reached its most severe stage yet, as yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commision (ACCC) made a call that saw the watchdog raise the status of 20,000 of the affected cars upped to a “critical” level.

As many of these particularly affected cars – the full list is included below – have ‘Alpha’ airbags that have as much as a 50 percent chance of rupturing during deployment in even a minor collision, compared to a 0.27 percent chance for a properly manufactured airbag.

That’s why owners of these particular cars from the likes of BMW, Lexus, Toyota, Honda, Holden, Nissan, Mazda, and Mitsubishi are being urged to stop driving them “immediately” due to them being particularly unsafe, and as it will be of no extra cost to owners, they should have them towed to have the replacement done.

To recap the basics of what is the largest automotive recall ever, 29 deaths – including one in Australia – and 320 injuries around the world have occurred since 2009 due to the airbags’ inflators being prone to exploding, sending shrapnel flying that has been known to puncture eyes, faces, chests, and necks. The recall process for these airbags itself began all the way back in 2013 and was made compulsory in Australia at the start of 2018. Given how long ago the first recalls were announced, it begs the question as to why there are so many cars still driving around with faulty airbags that any would need to be raised to such a critical state.

While more than three million airbags have been replaced in Australia already, 483,071 still require urgent attention, hence why after the ACCC’s initial investigation into the then-voluntary recall, the government imposed that it would be raised to a compulsory recall, with all faulty airbags needing replacement by the end of 2020.

That’s why all states, bar Victoria, now have the power to cancel registration or deny renewals if faulty airbags have not been replaced. It’s a decision I agree with in theory, but there are some issues with it when you start to dig deeper into the swampy mess of this farcical case.

While I agree with this being an option when it comes to those stubborn morons who for what ever idiotic reason refuse to have their faulty airbags replaced, many people have reported struggles in trying to get theirs replaced when they actively want to.

According to ABC News, some people have reported wait times of up to 12 months to be squeezed in for a booking, which, given the magnitude of the recall, puts pressure on dealerships who have other paying work that requires completion. While this doesn’t excuse such dramatic wait times for a very necessary fix, it does highlight the uphill battle faced by customers when it comes to navigating this. Oh, and on a related note here – in the case of the one Australian death due to a faulty airbag back in 2017, the driver of the car had been booked in to have his airbags replaced two days prior, but his booking was postponed.

What’s more, when customers are finally getting in to have the replacements fitted, there’s no guarantee that the problem will be fully remedied. Also yesterday, Lexus revealed that all of its second-generation IS models that had been recalled thus far would need to have their airbags replaced again as the original replacements were also faulty units, meaning owners were still left with a ticking time bomb. They aren’t the only company this has been the case with, either.

The fact that Takata reportedly knew about the issue with its airbags as far back as the year 2000 means that the colossal mess that is currently embroiling millions of innocent car owners in Australia and around the world could have been easily avoided. If the issue was raised then and there, we wouldn’t be here today with people anxiously waiting to have their cars fixed but facing pushback after pushback from dealers and OEMs who continue to fit faulty components. Now, it’s gone on for far too long.

Takata admitting to hiding evidence as to its knowledge of the problem is why the company, in my opinion, deserved to need to declare for bankruptcy in 2017. When a product designed to save lives is putting them in even more risk, covering that up is beyond unacceptable. But you knew that already, didn’t you, good reader who I imagine has an accurate moral compass.

That is, of course, unless you are one of the yahoos who can’t be bothered getting your airbags replaced. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, you are. For what inconvenience it may cause to your schedule, at least you’ll still have a schedule to keep to the rest of the time if you aren’t dead. And anyway, what else are you going to do when the option is finally having a component that is quite literally faulty to a lethal degree replaced or having your rego cancelled? I know what I’d be going for.

But although I urge, no, demand you go and have it taken care of, that is assuming that you can get a booking to have this done. This is where some pressure needs to go on manufacturers who need to figure out a way to streamline the airbag replacement process, as clearly, it’s not working so far if people are waiting months to get just another faulty airbag installed.

Plus, simply telling people who’ve spent their hard-earned money on a car they will likely need to use to go to work school, or to use in an emergency situation that they just shouldn’t drive it doesn’t sit well with me given their cars may be undriveable to them for months on end.

I also feel that car companies need to get their act together when it comes to getting the urgency of this recall across to the stubborn ones that still refuse to get the work done. Sure, they’re sending out letters and that sort of thing, but where’s the promotion of this on social media? That’s where everyone gets all their information from these days, not through snail mail.

Of course, while Takata itself is obviously to blame for causing all of this in the first place, a lot needs to happen to make the process of having these airbags replaced quicker and easier, and whatever that process is, people need to pay attention to it.

Now even if you think you may or may not be affected by this, please just go and run your rego through the website which will tell you in a second whether or not you’re affected, and if it says you are, act on it quickly.

I’m not being paid to tell you to do that, by the way – I’m just trying to look out for your safety and to do my bit to ensure this saga comes to an end.

Patrick Jackson
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