14 Apr 2018

Killer airbags: what you need to know

From This Way Up, 12:50 pm on 14 April 2018

Faulty airbags are endangering the lives of New Zealand drivers and their passengers, part of a problem affecting 100 million cars worldwide.  

A stock photo of an air bag inflated after car crash.

Unlike these airbags, the faulty ones may explode rather than inflate. Photo: 123RF

A voluntary recall was announced in 2013, but according to the government, barely one-third of affected cars have so far had airbags replaced.

Last week, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced the compulsory recall of 50,000 vehicles fitted with Takata's most dangerous Alpha-type airbags.

Suppliers are required to contact owners and replace all the airbags no later than December 2019 or face penalties of up to $600,000.

A ban on the import of all new and used cars fitted with those airbags comes into force next month.

In the past week 250,000 people have visited the website set up to help consumers check if their car is one of those affected, and the recall has been widened to include more recent models.

Consumer head of testing Paul Smith says most of the airbags are in models manufactured from 2001 to 2006, but some are in models up to 2011.

Smith says more than 20 deaths and 200 injuries worldwide have been attributed to the airbags’ exploding rather than inflating.

“If you are part of this compulsory recall you will get a letter from the manufacturer to say take your car in and get the  airbag replaced.

"But we think if you’re on list for the Alpha airbags you shouldn’t wait for a letter. You should contact them and say ‘I want this to be done’.”

  • 50,000 NZ vehicles affected in airbag recall
  • Millions of cars recalled over airbag concerns
  • Find out more:

    Recall information from the Japanese government's website for used cars

    Recall information for NZ new imports

    Consumer.org.nz backgrounder by Paul Smith

    NZTA background information