Thousands of cars on New Zealand roads could fail Warrant of Fitness checks because of faulty or disabled airbags.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) last week urged the owners of vehicles affected by the global Takata airbag recall to have checks to make sure their front passenger airbags aren't disabled.
While disabling the passenger airbag is legal in Japan, it does not meet New Zealand requirements.
NZTA said it is currently "working through implications" for the Warrant of Fitness (WoF) system.
WoF inspectors have a list of the cars they believe could be affected and will be checking those.
However, they are not required to perform a specific visual check for disabled airbags at present.
The NZTA recently discovered that in 2015 some manufacturers in Japan began offering customers the option of disabling front passenger airbags, in response to public concerns in Japan about wait times for replacement airbags as part of the global recall.
Up to 300,000 vehicles in New Zealand have been recalled because of malfunctioning airbags that either do not inflate or fire out pieces of metal when inflated in an accident - injuring people and even causing death.
The modifications carried out on vehicles in Japan involved disconnecting the airbag and placing an extra component into the vehicle's electronics, resulting in the car's self-diagnostic systems registering the disabled airbag as functional.
Because of the way these modifications were done in Japan, invasive visual checks are the only way of determining with certainty if the airbags have been disabled, as the vehicle's dashboard warning lights will not identify the disabled airbags.
The NZTA has urgently amended the entry certification inspection requirements for used imported vehicles from Japan.
As of last Wednesday, these vehicles will be required to undergo a visual check of the airbag connection, which in most cases will involve physically dismantling part of the vehicle to sight the airbag connection.
The NZTA is urging the owners of used Toyota vehicles imported from Japan since 2015 to check the rightcar.govt.nz/recalls website to see if the front passenger airbags in their vehicles have been disconnected.
Toyota NZ has provided the agency with a list of 7560 vehicles currently registered in New Zealand which have had front passenger airbags disconnected in Japan.
The Transport Agency has uploaded the information for all of these vehicles on the rightcar.govt.nz/recalls website, which is searchable by registration plate. When the registration plate of a vehicle which is known to have had the passenger airbag disconnected is entered, the notice below will be displayed along with other information for the vehicle.
The NZTA has also provided Toyota NZ with the owner details for these vehicles and Toyota is contacting the owners directly with information on how to have the airbags reconnected or replaced.
The agency is urgently seeking the same information from the New Zealand representatives of other Japanese manufacturers, and this information will be added to the on-line Rightcar database as soon as it is available.
The NZTA has also updated its website with information on the issue.
"We are working urgently with individual manufacturers, the Motor Industry Association and the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association, to gather more information and to identify individual vehicles which are affected," NZTA national delivery manager Robyn Elston says.
To date, there have been no injuries reported in New Zealand as a result of faulty airbags exploding.
NZTA says it will publish lists of affected vehicles on its website as information is gathered from manufacturers.
"While we have taken immediate action to investigate the extent of the issue and to ensure no further vehicles enter the country with disabled airbags, it's important that potentially affected vehicles already here are checked and that any disabled airbags are reconnected," Elston says.
"If you have any immediate concerns, we suggest you contact your vehicle manufacturer's representative in New Zealand - such as a local dealership - for advice on how to get your vehicle checked."
Vehicle owners can also ring the NZ Transport Agency for assistance on 0800 108 809, from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
More detailed information will soon be available on the NZ Transport Agency website, nzta.govt.nz