The agency 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.
Due to 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.
Since becoming aware of the issue the Transport Agency has urgently amended the entry certification inspection requirements for used imported vehicles from Japan. From tomorrow 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.
This morning owners of cars potentially affected by the fault airbags were being told to contact their local dealer or manufacturer to see if their car was affected.
The list that appears on the government recall website includes BMW, Chrysler, Daihatsu, GM, Ferrari, Ford, Honda Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.