CARMAKERS say they have no idea yet how many Australian drivers are jumping behind the wheel of a growing list of vehicles that could be fitted with potentially fatal airbags.
Japanese car components maker Takata today doubled its recall in the US of vehicles linked to faulty decade-old airbags to 33.8 million – the equivalent of one in every seven vehicles on US roads.
The recall aims to fix potentially life-threatening problems with the Takata airbags, including bags that tear while inflating and the realisation that in some instances, the airbag can also fire a hail of shrapnel into the person it is meant to be saving.
Deaths have been linked to the latter fault in the US, while survivors have been described as looking as though they have been blasted in the face by a shotgun.
So far in Australia, only Toyota, Honda and Nissan have responded to the widening net of potentially dangerous airbags and issued recalls to replace them, with about 300,000 vehicles affected.
However, given how widespread the problem is in the US, more are now expected here – but no one can yet confidently say how many.
Wheels contacted manufacturers other than Toyota, Nissan and Honda, selling a similar make and model to those vehicles scooped up in the wider US recall.
None apart from Mitsubishi, which said it did not expect any impact from the Takata recall, could say with certainty if their Australian-delivered vehicles would also fall into the growing list of affected cars.
Mazda Australia’s Karla Leach said the carmaker was in contact with its Japanese head office, and expected to soon know more about what the US recall meant for models sold here.
“We don’t really know what it means for us yet, but we’re finding out and expect to have an answer later today,” she said.
Likewise, Subaru said it was wating on directions to come out of its Japan-based parent, Fuji Heavy Industries, before making a decision.
Wheels also approached BMW Australia to ask if any of its models were likely to be scooped up by the growing recall.
The federal Department of Infrastructure, which handles the recall process before officially asking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to contact owners, was asked if it had any indication from manufacturers of how many vehicles had the potential to be scooped up in the recall.
Last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated there were 13.3 million passenger cars on Australia’s roads.
Last year also set a record for the number of vehicles recalled in Australia, which nudged past the 1.1 million mark for the first time. It also meant that one car was recalled to fix a potential safety issue for every new vehicle sold during 2014.
The year's record run of recalls varied from malfunctioning windscreen wipers, which had the potential to severely restrict vision while driving through rain, to engines and gearboxes falling out of cars.