Does the country have a case? Possibly.
It all began back in 2013 when many automakers began issuing recalls for defective Takata airbags. The following year, the airbag supplier admitted one of its subsidiaries did not follow proper manufacturing guidelines of explosive propellants which were improperly stored inside the airbags. This resulted in cases where the airbags ruptured and debris was flung at high speeds towards drivers. There were many serious facial injuries and several fatalities.
A long list of automakers issued recalls because Takata was their airbag supplier, but the damage was already done: 100 million vehicles from 12 brands were affected in the largest automotive recall in history. But it was the automakers' responsibility to issue the recalls and Australia doesn't think Mercedes-Benz did so fast enough.
Reuters reports the country's consumer rights and watch organization, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has sued the German automaker over allegations it downplayed the risks of exploding airbags. The Commission claims staff at the Mercedes call center in the country told concerned owners it was okay to continue driving the vehicles "that were more than six years old and that the recall was precautionary as there have been no major incidents."
Some of the recalled vehicles included older generations of the Mercedes C-Class, E-Class, SLS AMG, and the old SLK. Basically, Mercedes is being accused of downplaying the safety risks and drivers were thus at greater risk of injury or death. "These alleged representations used language which was inconsistent with the requirements of the compulsory recall notice," the lawsuit states.
Mercedes' parent company Daimler maintains its vehicles were not equipped with the so-called "Alpha" airbags the ACCC designated as higher risk. Instead, it used "Beta" airbags. Furthermore, the carmaker says the ACCC was overseeing the recall itself and did not require its vehicles to be removed from the road and for owners to stop driving them until necessary repairs were done.
The ACCC maintains its recall affected both airbag types. There was even one death and a serious injury in the country due to Beta airbags. So far, some 97.7 percent of all affected airbags have been replaced by Mercedes in Australia. The ACCC, however, still has misgivings.