Australia issues compulsory recall of Takata air bags

The logo of Takata Corp is seen on its display at a wroom for vehicles in Tokyo, Japan, in this February 9, 2017 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 February 2018
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Australia issues compulsory recall of Takata air bags

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia on Wednesday issued a compulsory recall for all 2.7 million cars fitted with defective Takata air bags in an effort to lift the auto industry’s mixed efforts to fix the fault blamed for at least 23 deaths around the world.
Vehicle suppliers must recall and replace all the air bags in Australia by the end of 2020, with priority given to the most dangerous because of their design, age or the level of humidity in their environment, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar said.
“Tragically there has been one death and one case of serious injury in Australia as a result of the deployment of these air bags and the government just doesn’t want to see any more,” Sukkar told reporters.
Takata’s air bag problem has resulted in 100 million recalls worldwide and forced the Japanese company into bankruptcy protection.
Sukkar said the problem was considered acute in northern Australia due to its humid and hot climate. Such conditions are a known factor in the deaths blamed on the faulty air bags, which have occurred mainly in the summer in the southern United States and in tropical Malaysia.
The chemical propellant in the air bag inflators can deteriorate in hot, humid conditions and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister and creating shrapnel.
While some manufacturers had recalled more than 80 percent of the air bags in Australia, some were as low as 36 percent.
Under the compulsory recall order, the government will be able to name manufacturers who are falling behind from July. Failure to comply with the order carries a potential fine of 1.1 million Australian dollars ($860,000) per breach.
“One of the concerns has been the divergence we’ve seen among manufacturers as to how actively they’ve sought to notify ... consumers with potential problems with their air bags,” Sukkar said.
“As far as reluctance goes, again it’s been very much a mixed bag. If you look at some of the manufacturers, they really use best endeavors. There are other manufacturers who didn’t show the same diligence,” he added.
Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the consumer watchdog that recommended the recall, said some manufacturers within the voluntary recall have done a bad job.
“They’ve been slow to communicate, slow to get the parts in and slow to replace air bags and sometimes said things to consumers that were unfortunate, like: ‘Come back in a year’s time and, by the way, in the meantime don’t drive the car,’” Sims said.
National Roads and Motorists’ Association spokesman Peter Khoury, an Australian motorists advocate, said the compulsory recall was long overdue.
“This recall has been going on for a number of years, it’s clearly too long and it is absolutely vital that we get these car fixed by the deadline set by the Australian government at the end of 2020, but certainly preferably well before that,” Khoury said .
“It has absolutely taken far too long to reach this stage. When you have air bags killing people globally, that is something that needs to be addressed immediately,” he added.


Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

Updated 18 September 2018
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Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.