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Toyota takes dodgy parts suppliers to court

Toyota takes Federal Court action against distributors of counterfeit airbag parts.

In an unprecedented move, car giant Toyota is taking the sellers of bogus airbag parts to court because it fears they may fail to deploy in a crash. 

Toyota is taking unprecedented legal action in the Federal Court against two distributors of counterfeit airbag parts which it fears may be deadly in a crash.

As reported exclusively by News Corp Australia a fortnight ago, Toyota has embarked on a nationwide search of the bogus parts which can fit up to 2 million Toyotas sold locally over the past 10 years.

Toyota issued a bulletin two weeks ago to its network of more than 200 dealers nationally requesting cars be inspected during routine servicing, in an attempt to identify any of the counterfeit parts which can fail to deploy an airbag in a crash

Toyota had refused to comment on the counterfeit airbag scare until it lodged its legal action with the Federal Court today.

It is the first time the Japanese giant has taken legal action in Australia against sellers of bogus parts

"Following a six-month investigation, Toyota Australia has today lodged Federal Court proceedings against two independent retailers that have been selling counterfeit airbag spiral cables and advertising them as genuine Toyota parts," said a Toyota statement.

"The legal action relates to 'trademark infringement' and 'misleading and deceptive conduct'." 

It is the first time the Japanese giant has taken legal action in Australia against sellers of bogus parts.

Toyota is trying to obtain a list of who the fake parts were sold to so it can trace the vehicles they may have been fitted to.

"It is our expectation that the independent retailers will contact the impacted customers to advise them that they have purchased counterfeit parts and replace the airbag spiral cable with a genuine Toyota part at no cost to the customer," says the Toyota statement. 

Toyota says it is taking action because the two independent retailers have been "unwilling to cooperate".

"In particular, the independent retailers have denied any wrongdoing despite selling counterfeit parts in Toyota packaging to consumers," says the Toyota statement.

Toyota was forced to take the unprecedented action after Australia's peak consumer authority, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, failed to intervene despite being alerted to the potentially deadly counterfeit parts seven weeks ago

A confidential dealer bulletin obtained by News Corp Australia says there is a "high likelihood of insufficient conductivity to support airbag deployment electrical current" and "significant risk of airbag non deployment in an accident".

The genuine part costs about $300 wholesale, while the fake part is estimated to cost as little as $50

The technical bulletin says the counterfeit part does not have gold plated connectors, the crimping of the cable is not strong enough and it does not use copper wire as per the genuine article. The plastic locking tabs are also "poorly formed" or misaligned.

As is the case with most new cars, the airbag connector — the link between the car's power source and the airbag in the steering wheel — must be replaced every time an airbag is deployed in a crash.

The genuine part costs about $300 wholesale, while the fake part is estimated to cost as little as $50.

Owners of Toyota cars that have never been involved in an accident are not at risk of being affected by the bogus parts.

But Toyota vehicles that have been repaired after an airbag deployed in a crash may have been fitted with the counterfeit parts, either knowingly or unwittingly by smash repairers.

According to insurance industry figures, about 15 per cent of crashes are serious enough to deploy airbags, which on conservative estimates equates to about 150,000 cars needing replacement airbags each year nationally.

The counterfeit scare is unrelated to the recent recalls involving Takata airbags, which so far have seen more than 860,000 cars sent back to dealers in Australia, of which 207,000 were Toyotas and 306,000 were Hondas.