Motor dealers admit they face problems tracking down nearly 40,000 cars in Ireland with potential airbag problems.
In one of the biggest recalls of its kind, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda are asking the owners of certain cars made between 2000 and 2004 to bring them in for safety tests.
Possible defects in the airbag inflator on the passenger side of vehicles could result in the devices bursting and sending plastic pieces flying. However, no injuries have been reported related to the problem.
Toyota is recalling more than 23,000 models, including the Yaris (10,380), Corolla (11,149) and Avensis (1,761). Nissan is recalling 13,500 Almera, X-Trail, Navara, Pathfinder, Patrol and Tino cars. Honda is seeking the owners of 1,500 Civic, Jazz and CRV models, while Mazda has concerns over 390 mainly Mazda 6 models.
Dealers are awaiting chassis numbers of affected vehicles from Japanese headquarters. These will then be cross-checked with records at the Vehicle Registrations Unit in Shannon.
But John Donoghue, Ireland's after sales director with Universal Honda, said while they would do everything in their power to trace the cars, their age may make it difficult in some cases. He said: "The biggest difficulty in this is going to be finding the cars - they are that old. We will do everything possible to try and contact the customer. But older vehicles can be particularly difficult to get. But it won't be for the want of trying."
Dealers said it will be next month before they are in a position to start writing to affected customers. Owners will be asked to bring their car in for the necessary tests and any remedial work.
Conor Faughnan, of AA Ireland, said the popularity of Japanese cars in Ireland meant the country was disproportionately impacted by the worldwide recall. He said: "It may be difficult for the manufacturers to track down the owner. Because if a car is 10 or 12 years old, it is highly likely to have had more than one owner, so that can be a bit of paperchase. That could be a significant problem for the manufacturers."
But Mr Faughnan warned motorists not to be overly worried. He said: "When people hear airbags they naturally tend to get alarmed. But there are more than three million units involved in the recall worldwide and as far as I know there are no reports of any proving a threat to human health."
The recall for air bags made by Japanese firm Takata affects other car-makers, including non-Japanese manufacturers, Takata spokesman Akiko Watanabe said. She declined to give further details.