5 Oct 2016

Border checks for faulty car airbags ramped up

2:10 pm on 5 October 2016

The Transport Agency (NZTA) is warning there is a risk that people with Japanese imported cars could be driving around with airbags that have been disconnected.

airbags, dashboard, car

Border staff will be dismantling the glove box of Japanese import cars to check for airbags. Photo: 123rf

From today Japanese cars arriving at New Zealand ports are undergoing urgent checks to make sure the front passenger airbags have not been turned off.

The problem is often caused by drivers in Japan disconnecting the airbags to evade the long and cumbersome process of checks required under a global recall for faulty bags that began in 2013.

There are 300,000 cars at risk in New Zealand.

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

NZTA national manager of delivery Robyn Elston told Morning Report the agency fears buyers in this country could be at risk.

But she said it was likely to only affect people with vehicles imported since 2015, when the practice of removing them began in Japan.

"There's a risk that there are vehicles that are running in New Zealand that have this problem with the disconnected airbags.

"What we are doing is that we're getting information from the manufacturers to identify those affected vehicles and as soon as we have that information that will go up on our website."

NZTA has said it could take until 2019 to finish checking all the cars in New Zealand which are risk.

Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin said if there was an accident, and the airbags were either faulty or weren't connected, people would be covered by ACC.

She said while the danger was still relatively low - and the cars were still safe to drive - people should be cautious.

"I don't want to scare people because there have been no record incidents in either New zealand or Australia, but people should be getting their vehicles checked if they have any concerns and make themselves known to the local distributor or manufacturer of these cars."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs