Faulty Takata airbags linked to causing 18 deaths around the world are being replaced by new defective airbags, according to an Australian consumer group.
The organisation Choice has said that five car companies have admitted replacing the airbags with faulty devices in Australia, supposedly as a temporary fix.
Toyota has reportedly said the new replacements are completely safe for several years, and that it is only when the airbags age that they become faulty.
In a statement, the Japanese manufacturer said: "The action [recall] provided safety for a number of years. However, due to exposure to the environment over time, these airbags will need to be replaced again."
Japanese car parts maker Takata is facing billions of dollars in liabilities over its airbags, which Choice described as "ticking time-bombs". Deaths have been reported globally from the airbags, fitted in cars made by BMW, Honda, Toyota and Lexus, for example.
More than 100 million cars fitted with Takata airbags globally were recalled after it emerged in 2007 that there were significant safety problems associated with the airbags – faulty inflators could expand with too much force, spraying metal shrapnel at the car's occupants.
The new investigation came after a further death was reported from the airbags last week in Sydney. A 58-year-old male was struck in the neck by some shrapnel after being involved in a crash with his Honda CR-V. The man had reportedly ignored recall notices, and his CR-V had subsequently not had the 'fix'.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission watchdog said it would investigate the recall.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: "We would have very serious concerns if manufacturers were found to be misleading consumers about their car's safety in breach of their obligations under consumer law."
By Ted Welford