Car owners asked to remove airbags affected by fatal flaw

Aaron Hia, an automotive product trainer, with his Honda Civic Type R car.
Aaron Hia, an automotive product trainer, with his Honda Civic Type R car.PHOTO: BENEDICT CHIA
The Takata recall was made more than two years ago. As of now, the LTA said 80 per cent of the 150,000 vehicles affected here have been rectified or deregistered.
The Takata recall was made more than two years ago. As of now, the LTA said 80 per cent of the 150,000 vehicles affected here have been rectified or deregistered.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Unable to get parts for a recall to fix a fatal airbag flaw, at least one parallel importer is asking customers to deactivate or remove the airbags from their vehicles.

This course of action comes years after disgraced airbag maker Takata issued a worldwide recall on defective products which have killed more than a dozen and maimed many others.

Garage R, a parallel importer specialising in high-performance models, has written to owners affected by the vehicle flaw - which could potentially send metal shrapnel into the head and torso of front occupants when an airbag deploys - asking them to remove the airbags.

This, it said, was because the replacement parts were hard to come by and that they were expensive.

Honda Civic Type R owner Aaron Hia, 32, was among those who received the letter. "I was a little upset when I got it. And you had to pay $80 or $90 to remove the airbag."

Mr Hia, a product trainer with a car distributor, said he replaced the car's steering wheel two months ago, and the aftermarket wheel has no airbag. He said he has yet to remove the passenger-side airbag. He said the whole issue has been "a real headache".

In response to press queries, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said importers and motor dealers who have imported or sold vehicles affected by safety-related recalls are required to "comply with, and complete the rectification of affected vehicles in accordance with the respective vehicle manufacturers' requirements".

Those who fail to comply with this regulation will be fined up to $2,000 for each vehicle, subject to a maximum fine of $50,000.

The authority said it is aware some vehicle manufacturers have recommended deactivating or disabling the faulty airbags in the vehicles "as an interim measure if replacement parts are not readily available".

The Takata recall was made more than two years ago. As of now, the LTA said 80 per cent of the 150,000 vehicles affected here have been rectified or deregistered.

"LTA will continue to work closely with the motor dealers to ensure there is a continuous supply of replacement airbag inflators for all affected vehicles in Singapore," a spokesman added.

Asked how much time motor companies are given to fix a safety-related flaw, the authority did not respond.

Motor firms said there is no fixed time stipulated for recalls to be done.