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.


Volkswagen to end iconic ‘Beetle’ cars in 2019

Updated 13 September 2018
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Volkswagen to end iconic ‘Beetle’ cars in 2019

NEW YORK: Volkswagen announced Thursday it would end production of its iconic "Beetle" cars in 2019 after adding a pair of final editions of the insect-inspired vehicles.
The move comes as Volkswagen emphasizes electric autos and larger family-oriented vehicles, said Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America.
But Woebcken opened the door to reviving the model at some point, alluding to the company's 2017 decision to unveil a revamped Volkswagen Bus as a possible template.
"Never say never," he said in a statement.
Volkswagen plans to offer the two final edition models in both coupe and convertible styles. The cars will include nods to earlier versions and be priced at $23,045 and up, the company said.
"The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle's many devoted fans," Woebcken said.
The sedans made their US debut in the 1950s and were popularized with the 1968 Disney movie "The Love Bug."
US sales ceased in 1979, but the vehicle continued to be produced in Mexico and Brazil, according to Car and Driver. VW revived the "New Beetle" in the US 1997.
However, the vehicle's history goes back to the Nazi era, having first been developed by Ferdinand Porsche with support from Adolf Hitler.