Australians scrutinise Takata

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A technician holds a recalled Takata airbag inflator after he removed it from a Honda car in the US. Reuters

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s consumer watchdog said yesterday it was investigating the recall of Takata Corp. vehicle airbags, a day after police said the death of man in a Sydney car crash was likely due to a faulty airbag.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it was seeking information from both the government department responsible for vehicle safety and car manufacturers on what information was being given to consumers about the recall.

Takata shares slid by a fifth in yesterday’s trade on the news.

The death of the man in Sydney this month, which involved a Honda CRV fitted with Takata manufactured airbags, may be the 18th linked to faulty airbags by the Japanese auto parts maker and the first such death in Australia.

Investigators said the man was struck in the neck by a small fragment of an airbag that was subject to a worldwide recall. Takata’s airbag inflators can degrade over time, spraying metal shards around a vehicle when the airbag is deployed.

Honda spokesman Neil McDonald said the accident was still under investigation and the company was not able to say whether the airbag in question was one that had never been replaced or one that had already been replaced as part of recall efforts.

Takata did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday that some vehicles’ airbags were being replaced with ones that may in turn need to be replaced again in six years’ time. The water-absorbing chemical designed to address the original problem can also degrade over time, he said.

Mr Sims said 36 percent of affected Australian vehicles had potentially faulty airbags replaced and urged manufacturers to accelerate the speed of upgrades.

“The fact is now manufacturers have had long enough to locate the airbags and get that sorted,” said Mr Sims.

Manufacturers including BMW, Toyota, Mazda and Subaru, have replaced some airbags with a temporary fix, the ACCC said.

More than 2.3 million vehicles in Australia have been targeted in a recall since 2009, the watchdog said.

Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and Japan, and said last month it had agreed for its viable operations to be acquired for $1.6 billion by Chinese-owned US-based Key Safety Systems.

Takata’s shares were down 8 yen or 22 percent in late afternoon trade.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. said it will petition to avoid a US recall of about 2.5 million vehicles with Takata air-bag inflators that the Japanese auto supplier declared defective, US regulators and the automaker said on Friday.

Ford spokesman John Cangany said the automaker will file a petition requesting “to continue testing and analysing our inflators”. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the petition will seek an exemption from the recall because Ford believes the issue is inconsequential.

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