Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The Australian government on Wednesday issued a mandatory recall for nearly 4 million vehicles to replace defective Takata airbags, including 850,000 that had previously gone unrecalled.
Michael Sukkar, assistant minister to the treasurer, said results from an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission prompted the new recall after finding Takata airbags are dangerous and that many dealerships have not responded to prior voluntary recalls.
"While almost one in five passenger vehicles on Australian roads have now been recalled, the voluntary recall process has not been effective in some cases, and some manufacturers have not taken satisfactory action to address the serious safety risk which arises after the airbags are more than six years old," Sukkar said.
The action is the Australian government's first mandatory vehicle recall.
Officials say age, high temperatures and humidity all play a role in weakening the defective airbags, which can rupture and send sharp metal fragments into the passenger cabin.
Worldwide, the Takata airbag recall is the largest in automotive history, affecting roughly 100 million vehicles.
Sukkar said the government's compulsory recall requires vehicle manufacturers, dealers, importers and other suppliers to ensure affected Takata airbags are located and replaced quickly. A subset of Takata airbags called 'alpha' pose the highest safety risk -- with about 25,000 yet to be replaced, officials said.
"Absolute priority will be given to replacing alpha airbags, which pose an immediate and critical safety risk," Sukkar said.
At least 23 people have died and 230 have been seriously injured in connection with defective Takata airbag devices. In Australia, one man was killed and a woman seriously injured related to the defect.
Officials said the affected airbags must be replaced by the end of 2020. Vehicle owners can find a list of affected vehicles and more information on the ACCC website.