4 Oct 2016

Faulty airbag checks could continue until 2019

9:41 pm on 4 October 2016

It could take up to 2019 to finish checking about 300,000 cars being recalled in New Zealand for potential malfunctioning airbags, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says.

A car with airbag inflated.

The recall is the biggest worldwide, says MTA head David Crawford. Photo: 123RF

The airbags are manufactured by Japanese firm Takata, and the part is being recalled after incidents around the world in which airbags either did not inflate or fired out pieces of metal when inflated in accidents. In some cases people were badly hurt, or died.

The global recall has been going on for the past two years but there has been renewed media coverage and, in this country, the website recalls.govt.nz crashed today as people tried to find out if their car was among those affected.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which runs the site, said a team was working to restore the site as soon as possible.

Motor Industry Association's chief executive David Crawford said the recall had expanded and was now the biggest worldwide in motoring history.

"It's about 10 times larger than we've seen in New Zealand, and certainly worldwide it's the largest by a very long margin," Mr Crawford told Nine to Noon.

He said there had been no reports of death or injury in New Zealand or Australia from the airbags.

"In countries that are very hot and humid, there's been some deterioration of a few of the inflaters, so when they've been activated during an accident it has caused a malfunction, with the way that the airbag is inflated, and in the worst cases fragments of metal have broken from the container and that has injured people, and tragically a few people have lost their lives reportedly from deinflatation of the airbags," he said.

"It's partly to do with the gases that have been in the inflater, and there has been some corrosion due to moisture, only in countries where there's hot humid conditions for long periods of time."

Mr Crawford said it was important to note that the number of malfunctions were low.

"Our understanding is there may be as high as 100 million vehicles worldwide, and there's been, I understand, less than 200 incidents where it's malfunctioned.

"So the risk is very low, but from a vehicle manufacturers perspective we can't rule out the risk all together, so manufacturers are taking the responsible action of saying 'well if we can't rule it out, the parts have to be replaced'."

NZTA spokesperson Robyn Elston said the recall was likely to go on for at least a few more years.

"We are aware that because there's 100 million vehicles worldwide, and if proven faulty they need to be replaced, it could take some years to replace.

"We understand it could be to 2018, 2019, before all vehicles have been checked."

In New Zealand the affected vehicle brands are: BMW, Chrysler, Daihatsu, GM, Ferrari, Ford, Honda, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

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