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Oh, what a feeling! Toyota delays airbag notice until asked

Toyota does not appear to be issuing notices to its customers who have cars with defective Takata airbags – until the customers themselves contact the company.

iTWire contacted the company on Monday with a view to writing a story, pointing out that though the owners of some models had been informed earlier in the year that their vehicles had defective airbags, no indication had been given that replacements were available.

In the letter, sent in July this year, Toyota said: "Replacement parts are currently being prepared and, due to the number of vehicles impacted globally, it is anticipated that initial quantities of parts will become available to commence these Safety Recall Campaign repairs in the 4th Quarter of 2017."

Thereafter there has been a studied silence from the company.

In August, this writer contacted a local Toyota dealer and was told to bring his car in. However, no airbags were available but another defect — a petrol tank cover which could come adrift and about which no information had been sent — was rectified.

Shortly after contacting Toyota this week, this writer contacted the dealer again and was told that airbag replacement were now available; a date of 4 January 2018 was set for replacing the airbag.

The ACCC issued a warning this week to people who had cars with these defective airbags, asking them to exercise caution if contemplating travel by car during the forthcoming holidays.

There are about 43,000 cars in Australia that have the most dangerous type of faulty Takata airbag known as "alpha" airbags, according to the ACCC.

These were installed in some models of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mazda and Lexus sold in Australia from around 2001 to around 2004.

Overall since 2009, more than 2.7 million vehicles in Australia with defective Takata airbags have been voluntarily recalled, including Honda, Toyota, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus, Ferrari and Nissan vehicles.

In the initial query to Toyota, the company was told: "Some months ago, owners of some Toyota models were informed that the airbags in their vehicles were defective and would be replaced.

"The replacement date was given as the last quarter of 2017. There are about 21 days left in the year and it looks like this promise is not going to be kept.

"I myself have a Toyota and received a letter pledging this same timeframe for replacement. There is no sign or word from Toyota that the process is delayed."

Aleks Krajcer, manager of public affairs, national marketing, Toyota Australia, responded on Monday but the only thing he asked was the details of my vehicle.

This was provided. I also asked: "I called my local Toyota dealer this morning and he said the parts are available. So how come Toyota has not contacted me to inform me about it?"

Hey, presto, on Tuesday a letter arrived from Toyota saying that the airbag replacement was now available, and asking me to do what I had already done – book a date with a dealer to get a replacement fitted!

The letter came in less than a day despite the fact that Australia Post is not exactly setting any kind of record for delivery these days.

Why does Toyota — which thrived in Australia while it was here with taxpayer support — not bother about people who buy its cars?


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.