About 50,000 vehicles in New Zealand will be compulsorily recalled because of safety risks from potentially faulty airbags.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced the recall this afternoon of cars commonly used in New Zealand.

Vehicle owners can find out whether their cars were affected on MBie's recalls.govt.nz website and a dedicated website detailing all affected cars would be running within days.

The 50,000 vehicles are equipped with Alpha-type Takata airbags, an older model of the airbags, which could deploy unexpectedly, spraying passengers with shrapnel.

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It is only the second compulsory recall in New Zealand history, and the largest vehicle recall by far.

Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced the recall at a press conference in the Beehive. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced the recall at a press conference in the Beehive. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A further 257,000 vehicles containing non-Alpha airbags are subject to a recall.

A voluntary recall of vehicles with affected Takata airbags began in 2013 but Faafoi said not enough progress was being made to repair them.

He has set up a monitoring group to ensure non-Alpha airbag recalls were progressing and said he would make that compulsory too if it wasn't.

"I am not willing to compromise on the safety of New Zealanders," he said.

A total of 450,000 vehicles in New Zealand are affected by Takata recalls, and 100 million globally.

Faafoi is also stopping the importation of vehicles whose airbags have not been fixed.

After a 40 working day grace period, no new or used affected vehicles will be allowed into the country.

All Alpha-type airbags must be replaced by December 2019. The compulsory recall comes into effect 40 working days from today.

Australia issued a compulsory recall in late February, covering about four million vehicles - one in seven on its roads.

At the time Faafoi ordered an urgent report into the issue here, including into whether estimates of 180,000 affected vehicles in New Zealand were accurate.

The New Zealand Transport Agency had said it would not follow Australia's lead because there had been no reported incidents related to the faulty airbags in New Zealand, and several different manufacturers in New Zealand were voluntarily recalling cars.

"For a compulsory product recall of any kind to be ordered in New Zealand, the Fair Trading Act requires evidence that the product poses a significant safety risk and that the suppliers or manufacturers are not conducting a satisfactory recall," a spokesperson said.

The Motor Industry Association (MIA) and NZTA reported last September that 140,000 Kiwi motorists had been advised replacement inflators were available, and about half had taken their vehicles in for the fix.

MIA chief executive David Crawford had estimated more than 300,000 cars were affected, many of which were used imports.

"Since the issue came to light in 2013, less than a quarter of vehicles with affected airbags on our roads have been fixed. That's a poor return. If the recall and fix rate doesn't improve voluntarily, our government needs to consider making it mandatory."

The Takata airbags, mostly made in Japan, have been associated with 23 deaths and 230 serious injuries worldwide since 2008.