THOUSANDS of Scottish motorists are still driving cars with potentially deadly airbags months after a UK safety alert as major brands struggle with a shortage of replacement parts.
Nearly 600,000 Honda, Toyota and Nissan models across the UK are the subject of a worldwide recall due to a fault which can cause airbags to explode during a crash, sending metal shrapnel hurling at car occupants.
The defect has already been linked to eight deaths globally, all involving Honda vehicles, but a lack of replacement parts has left thousands of motorists waiting months for dealerships to call in their cars for repair.
One Honda owner, an 83-year-old pensioner living in rural Fife, said she had been notified in August that her car – a 2006 Honda Jazz – was among those potentially affected.
The letter, dated August 17, warned that in the event of a severe impact the driver and passenger airbags may “rupture and metal fragments could pass into the passengers’ compartment, possibly causing injury to vehicle occupants”.
It continued: “Honda is currently in the process of acquiring sufficient volumes of replacement parts to ensure we can replace the airbag inflator on all affected vehicles as quickly as possible.”
The car owner, who did not want to be named, said she had previously used her car to shuttle elderly neighbours around, but had been too afraid to do so since becoming aware of the danger.
She said: “This is us now into October and they still can’t give us any replacement airbags or do anything for us.
“They said that I will receive a second letter once they have got the parts to replace it and they will replace it free of charge – but that was in the middle of August and now we’re in October.”
In May it emerged that some 300,000 Hondas, 160,000 Toyotas and 100,000 Nissans in the UK were fitted with the faulty airbags, designed by Japan’s Takata Corporation.
A safety probe has blamed the problem on the airbags’ inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with ammonium nitrate propellant – a volatile chemical also used to make bombs.
Globally, tens of millions of cars with Takata airbags have been recalled since 2008, most of them in the US.
The most recent fatality occurred in Los Angeles in June, when 26-year-old Jewel Brangman was killed by an exploding airbag in a rented 2001 Honda Civic.
It comes amid a troubled time for the car industry, with Volkswagen Group embroiled in a global scandal over emissions cheating software fitted to millions of diesel model.
This week, VW’s managing director in the UK, Paul Willis, said it could take until 2017 to finish recalling and modifying the 1.2 million UK cars affected.
A spokeswoman for Honda said that owners of affected Honda Jazz and Honda Insight models would be contacted soon about repairs.
She said: “Letters will be going out to customers at the beginning of Novembers telling them to bring their cars in for repair. This recall will affect 52,991 people.”
She added that their UK repairs process was “just starting”.
A spokesman for Toyota said UK customers would begin receiving letters inviting them for repairs from Monday October 19.
Nissan are in the process of developing a tool “from scratch” which will be able to identify which airbags have the defect.
A spokeswoman for Nissan said: “We are hoping this will be ready soon and once it is complete we will begin the process of contacting customers to invite them to have their vehicles checked and, if needed, repaired.”