Takata airbags' 18th victim? Australian man killed by shrapnel in neck

Consumer agency wants to know why the replacements are taking so long.

SYDNEY - Australia's consumer watchdog said on Monday it was investigating the recall of Takata Corp vehicle airbags, a day after police said the death of man in a Sydney car crash was likely due to a faulty airbag.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it was seeking information from both the government department responsible for vehicle safety and from car manufacturers on what information was being given to consumers about the recall.

Takata shares slid 20 percent in Monday trading on the news.

The death of the man in Sydney this month, which involved a Honda CR-V fitted with Takata-manufactured airbags, may be the 18th linked to faulty airbags by the Japanese auto-parts maker and the first such death in Australia.

Investigators said the man was struck in the neck by a small fragment of an airbag that was subject to a worldwide recall. Takata's airbag inflators can degrade over time, spraying metal shards around a vehicle when the airbag is deployed.

Honda spokesman Neil McDonald said the accident was still under investigation, and the company was not able to say whether the airbag in question was one that had never been replaced or one that had already been replaced as part of recall efforts.

Takata did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday that some vehicles' airbags were being replaced with ones that may in turn need to be replaced again in six years' time. The water-absorbing chemical designed to address the original problem can also degrade over time, he said.

Sims said 36 percent of affected Australian vehicles had potentially faulty airbags replaced and urged manufacturers to accelerate the speed of upgrades.

"The fact is, now manufacturers have had long enough to locate the airbags and get that sorted," said Sims.

Manufacturers including BMW, Toyota, Mazda, and Subaru have replaced some airbags with a temporary fix, the ACCC said.

More than 2.3 million vehicles in Australia have been targeted in a recall since 2009, the watchdog said.

Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and Japan, and said last month it had agreed for its viable operations to be acquired for $1.6 billion by Chinese-owned U.S.-based Key Safety Systems.

Takata's shares were down 8 yen or 22 percent in late afternoon trade.

Reporting by Colin Packham

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