BMW Australia has issued an urgent recall that impacts over 12,000 3-Series (E46) cars built between November 1997 and June 2000.
BMW says owners of the affected vehicles “must stop driving” immediately and contact their dealership to arrange an inspection. The recall is so urgent that BMW published a 254 page PDF listing every effected VIN and noted the recall does not appear in the company’s online lookup tool.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says recall was sparked by a Takata airbag that “poses a critical risk of death or serious injury to vehicle occupants.” While the dangers of certain Takata airbags have been known for years, the agency said safety authorities in Australia, Japan and United States have identified a different type of airbag that poses a significant risk to drivers.
These airbags were installed in the 3-Series and their airbag inflator can rupture if a vehicle is involved in a collision. This can send “sharp metal fragments” into the cabin and these can potentially kill or injure occupants.
The ACCC confirmed they are investigating two recent suspected misdeployments in Australia. One was tragically fatal, while the other caused a serious injury.
Given the seriousness of the issue, authorities aren’t messing around. Vehicles will be towed to an inspection site or visited by a mobile technician who will examine them where they sit.
If technicians confirm the vehicle is equipped with one of the affected airbags, BMW will “arrange a loan or hire car or reimbursement for alternative transportation” until an airbag replacement is available. The ACCC even noted owners “may discuss the vehicle being purchased by BMW.” This might be the best option as some reports have suggested parts might not be available for up to 18 months.
In a statement to The Sydney Morning Herald, BMW Australia said “BMW has decided to voluntarily conduct a safety recall in Australia because, based on what we know so far, a particular batch of Takata airbags may not function entirely correctly due to a manufacturing defect.” The company added “We are taking immediate steps to prevent the affected vehicles from being driven and implementing measures to minimize inconvenience to owners of those vehicles by providing alternative means of transportation.”