Mercedes-Benz will join the ranks of car companies hammered by the Takata airbag scandal in Australia, recalling “tens of thousands of cars” in a campaign set to start next year.
Company spokesman David McCarthy says the brand had not recalled cars to date as it sees “no safety risk” to customers driving cars fitted with Takata airbags.
“Our customers’ safety is of paramount importance to Mercedes-Benz and based on comprehensive testing, we wish to reassure our customers that we do not currently consider that Takata airbags used in Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and vans pose a risk of injury to any person,” he said.
“Notwithstanding that we currently see no safety risk, it is our intention to issue a voluntary recall subject to an orderly timetable that considers the supply of parts and logistical capacities.”
The manufacturer has not revealed exactly how many cars will be part of the action, or which models are affected.
Mercedes’ planned recalls come after Jaguar Land Rover announced plans to voluntarily recall 17,000 cars in Australia. Like Mercedes, the British company has not revealed exactly which cars will be hit by the issue.
Their decisions may increase pressure on other companies including Audi, Ford, Holden, Porsche, Volkswagen and Tesla to place potentially faulty Takata airbags in Australian cars.
Mercedes and Jaguar’s potential recalls follow an ACCC proposal for unprecedented mandatory recalls of cars equipped with Takata-built airbags that have killed one man in Australia and another 18 people overseas.
ACCC chair Rod Sims told Drive in September that most car companies affected by the issue “could do a lot more” for customers.
The consumer protection body met with automotive industry executives on Monday, where car companies discussed their efforts in rectifying more than 1 million cars that remain on the road with potentially deadly Takata airbag parts.
One industry insider who did not want to be named said the ACCC now has a better understanding of the issue.
“You can’t simply just snap your fingers and get a million airbags,” they said.
“The factories that make replacement airbags are operating at capacity.
“One of the biggest challenges is getting people to bring their cars in. People need to realise that this is as dangerous in some cases as driving with an IED (improvised explosive device) in front of you.”
The ACCC called for car companies to do more to address the issue, prompting Honda to send letters to customers with graphic images of airbag-propelled shrapnel punching through the roof of a vehicle.
Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said some customers were slow to respond to recall notices. The Japanese giant has replaced more than 527,000 inflators, but still has more than 122,000 unrectified cars on local roads.
“It’s our aim to have every affected car repaired but we can only do this if customers book their affected vehicles in,” Collins said.
“Unfortunately there are still some customers of affected vehicles who are simply not responding to repeated attempts by the company to contact them and have their airbag inflators replaced. We need to change this behaviour.”
– With Alex Rae
More information: Productsafety.gov.au