(Adds details, quotes from government minister)
SYDNEY, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Australia has ordered the recall of 2.3 million vehicles fitted with Takata Corp air bags that have been linked to deaths worldwide, in the country’s biggest compulsory product recall.
The manufacturers of the vehicles will have to pay for the replacement air bags, that have been linked to at least 18 deaths and 180 injuries globally because the inflators can rupture and shoot metal fragments into vehicles.
The air bags must be replaced by Dec. 31, 2020 or the manufacturers will face fines of A$1.1 million ($857,000) per breach of the order, said Michael Sukkar, assistant minister to the treasurer.
“Tragically there’s been one death and one case of serious injury in Australia as a result of the deployment of these air bags, and the government just doesn’t want to see any more,” Sukkar told reporters in Canberra, Australia’s capital.
Affected vehicles include those made by Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Volkswagen, Honda , BMW, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru.
Last week, Takata Corp’s U.S. unit agreed to settle a probe by 44 state attorneys general into accusations it concealed a deadly safety defect with air bag inflators.
In the biggest bankruptcy of a Japanese manufacturer, Takata sought court protection from creditors in June as costs and liabilities mounted from almost a decade of recalls and lawsuits.
Australia’s compulsory recall follows last year’s government-ordered voluntary recall, which Sukkar said had been insufficient, with less than half of drivers complying with the request.
$1 = 1.2840 Australian dollars Reporting by Wayne Cole and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; editing by Richard Pullin