Since Ford refined the production line back in 1913, we’ve come to expect standardisation and, more recently, automation, in the things we use. High-tech machinery and AI software do not, however, entirely iron out factory faults as both are subject to human error. We are no stranger to occasional product defects, but we’re not really used to them killing us. Until Takata.
A recent batch of the automotive supplier’s airbags have an inbuilt “ the potential for moisture intrusion over time ” that has killed 22 people across the globe. The airbags explode (no joke) and send metal fragments into the body of the vehicle and its occupants. 46 million of the things are out there, sitting quietly behind the cubby hole of 34 million cars, pretending to protect you.
In addition to the deaths, 280 people have been injured worldwide, but at present no South Africans have suffered. And Toyota is making sure it does what it can to keep this so. The automotive producer, loved and trusted for its reliable cars, is playing it safe and called for a recall. Again.
In 2015, they recalled (and replaced) the killer components in their Corolla, RunX and Yaris models (built from 2002 to 2007) and Rav4, Hilux and Fortuner models (from July 2003 to December 2005). It happened again in 2017, and now again in 2018. Tsk, Takata; product improvement much? And while the faulty goods have affected many car brands (full list here ), Toyota South Africa is playing it down some. Their press release doesn’t mention these deaths but it admits that the detonating Takata safety cushion “poses a danger” . Would you say an exploding safety cushion that embeds metal bits into your body only “poses a danger”?
How did it come to this? Cars are crash tested; it is law and it is good for business. How did the airbags get past the dummies? Or into, as it were. We’re not sure, and neither Takata nor Toyota are telling, with Takata consoling the bereaved with an inadequate public apology on their website. (search ‘airbags’)
But it turns out these safety inflatables are dangerous just as they are in your car, working perfectly.
They must be. They’ve got to stop you going through the windshield, amongst other things. Since 1998 they’ve counteracted the impact of collisions and crashes and saved lives across the globe. To do that, they use force. Sitting “too close” to one can mean burns and bashes as it opens at a high speed. These same “pop-up cushions” have saved thousands of lives and are a huge success in automotive safety design. You’re safer with one than without one, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had an – ahem – impact of their own on road deaths. While stats prove that they reduce the chance of dying in a head-on collision by just under a third, they killed 238 in America between 1990 and 2002, without factory faults. And then there’s the airbag “nose job”…
Warning: not for sensitive viewers.
Children and adults with small frames are the most vulnerable, so the bigger you are, the safer you are from them, though “rear-facing child safety seats should never be used in the front seat of a car because an airbag could cause serious injury or death if it strikes the back of the seat.”
The reality is that only about 2,5 percent of drivers involved in serious crashes are likely to suffer serious harm from this standard safety measure …if it’s not a faulty one, that is!
Find out if your Hilux model needs its airbag changed
1. Find your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on your licence disc.
2. Enter your VIN into the form on www.toyota.co.za/recall,
3. Or contact the Toyota Call Centre on 0800 139 111 with it.
Yippee, it will be fixed for free! It takes on average one to two hours to replace the offending component so take a book and make them check it (again) before you sign it off. With you outside the car, eh? Driving is a high-risk reality and while we can’t ensure the airbags in your vehicle won’t hurt you, we can insure your car …and your life.