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Faulty airbags put Australians at risk

2 minute read

Product liability

Nissan and Toyota owners in Australia may currently be driving vehicles with faulty airbags which have already been linked to 5 deaths globally.

Toyota and Nissan will recall 6.5 million cars worldwide due to faulty airbags supplied by Takata, associated with earlier recalls involving General Motors and Honda.

The fault may cause the airbags to rupture when deployed, causing shrapnel to be fired at occupants and posing a significant risk of injury. One of the deaths linked to the airbag was initially investigated as murder due to the shocking nature of the injuries.

Fortunately, no injuries are yet to be reported in Australia.181 000 Toyota vehicles and 102 000 Nissan vehicles have been affected within Australia. This includes Toyota Corolla, Yaris, RAV4, Echo and Avenis built between 2003 and 2007 and Nissan models built between 2004 and 2007. Nissan does not currently know the details of models affected within Australia.

Though the root cause has not been precisely determined, the defect appears to lie with the airbag inflators allowing moisture intrusion over time. This may result in improper inflation, causing the device to rupture and shower occupants with shrapnel.

The companies state that the recall is only precautionary and no deaths and injuries have been reported in Australia relating to this issue. However, there is concern that despite the serious nature of the risk posed to drivers, neither Nissan nor Toyota has warned customers to cease driving these cars.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury has responded with alarm, stressing that people should not be driving around with airbags that could kill them. Khoury states that safety should be paramount and that a quick resolution that allows customers to proactively address the issue and book their cars in to be fixed is vital.

Relative inaction on the part of Nissan and Toyota in relation to the defect may expose them to claims of negligence depending on the commonality and severity of the risk involved.

Toyota is intending to notify customers of the recall by mail and is preparing parts to begin repair early next year. As such, cars with this potentially fatal defect will remain on roads for an extended period of time. The issue lies with the sheer volume of affected vehicles on the road and the fact that cars of this age are likely to have changed hands, or no longer be on the roads, making them harder to trace.

However, the companies' current avenues may be inadequate considering the severity of the potential harm. In this case, the safety defect lies in a part of the vehicles designed to keep us safe. Click to read about Product Liability claims.

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