13 Nov 2012

Some 'world cars' not necessarily safe cars

The latest crash test results released by Latin NCAP today reveal that the safety levels of some popular cars sold across Latin America are still 20 years behind the industrialised countries and below global standards.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) noted the increase in safety over the range of vehicles tested by collegiate program, Latin NCAP, but expressed alarm about extremely poor ratings for two vehicles and concern about another that also achieved a poor rating.

The Renault Sandero and Chinese manufactured JAC J3 were the worst performers of the eight cars tested in Phase III of Latin NCAP crash testing - both with an extremely poor 1 star safety rating. The Volkswagen Clasico (Bora) also scored poorly with a 3 star safety rating. Progress has been made however with a number of Latin American-sold models achieving 4 star safety ratings. These include the Volkswagen Polo, Renault Fluence, Honda City, Toyota Etios and Ford Fiesta.

"Some 20 years after the ANCAP test program commenced, Australians are now very conscious of vehicle safety - we almost take it for granted that the cars we buy here are safe. However independent NCAP testing is vital in all markets to ensure consumers can be assured they are buying the safest cars," said ANCAP Chairman, Mr Lauchlan McIntosh.

"In Latin American countries there is no Government regulation of vehicle standards and manufacturers are taking advantage of this, selling cars with minimal, if not any safety features whatsoever."

A number of the vehicles tested by Latin NCAP to date have demonstrated major structural differences when compared to the same model produced for a different market, resulting in reduced crashworthiness.

Mr McIntosh added, "The majority of the results released by Latin NCAP to date are of great concern. Almost 40 per cent of the cars they've tested have scored a safety rating of 1 star or even poorer. This is sure to raise a red flag with consumers and should serve as a warning to all manufacturers that sub-standard levels of construction and lack of vital safety features will not be accepted by new car buyers."

"In Australia, the Renault Laguna was the first car to achieve the maximum 5 star ANCAP safety rating back in 2001, so this 1 star result for the Renault Sandero sold to markets such as Latin America is difficult to accept. Manufacturers talk often of a ‘world car’ without guaranteeing world class safety.”

The influence of Latin NCAP, a non-regulatory, consumer driven program established in 2010, is beginning to take effect with Ford and Volkswagen confirming airbags for the driver and front passenger will now be a standard fitment in the Fiesta and Clasico (Bora) models for all Latin NCAP markets.

"We are only now starting to see the fitment of airbags in models sold to the Latin American & Caribbean market - over 20 years after they were introduced in Australia. This is a step in the right direction but I want to emphasise that the fitting of airbags in cars which lack structural integrity is not an effective safety measure."

Latin America is a rapidly growing automobile market and source of vehicle production. It also has the world's highest per capita fatality rate from road crashes - 26 fatalities per 100,000 people, likely to rise further to over 30 per 100,000 by 2020. In Australia the number of road crash deaths per 100,000 population reached such a peak of 30 in 1970 and has decreased to 5.9 today. Research has shown that safer cars have made a major contribution to this reduction.

ANCAP commends the work being done by the emerging programs of Latin NCAP and also the new ASEAN NCAP to introduce safer cars into their markets.

The UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 has action programs to reduce unnecessary death and injuries from road crashes.

“Manufacturers who are improving the safety performance of their cars in all markets will be making an important contribution,” Mr McIntosh said.

Further details on Latin NCAP can be found at latinncap.com.

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