One-off crash test to demonstrate poor safety standards in developing countries
A one-off crash test between two versions of the same car – one sold in Mexico, one sold in the USA – will demonstrate the gulf in safety standards
A special crash test designed to highlight the disparity between car safety standards in different nations will take place in the USA later this month.
Organised by Global NCAP, the test will be a collision between two saloon cars of the same type, from the same manufacturer. Both will be entry-level spec, but one will be from the Mexican market and the other from the US market.
Global NCAP – the UK-based non-profit organisation that supports the development of new car assessment programmes (NCAPs) around the world – predicts a graphic representation of the difference in standard safety features in the two countries, and warns that it’s a situation repeated around the world. It hopes the test will encourage governments to regulate for better standard car safety, prompt large global fleets to be more considerate about which vehicles they buy, and put pressure on manufacturers to voluntarily raise safety standards in all markets.
“In Mexico at the moment, there are no crash test standards,” said David Ward, secretary general of Global NCAP. “They’ve announced this year that they will apply them, but not to all production cars until 2020.
“It’s very globally relevant. Roughly speaking, 50% of new vehicles worldwide are manufactured in emerging markets and sold both in those markets and back to high-income countries. However, there are large parts of the world where there are no effective vehicle safety standards.”
The UN sets safety standards that are more-or-less the same as in high-income countries such as the US, UK and in Europe, but Ward said implementation of the standards in developing nations was “very hit and miss”.
“We’re trying to encourage, by 2020, that all major vehicle producing countries apply appropriate UN-based or equivalent standards, so that you create a common level playing field of safety globally,” he said.
Global NCAP is particularly looking to promote adoption of front and side crash test standards, which have been in place in Europe and the UK since the 1990s, and electronic stability control.
“By 2020 we don’t want to see any new passenger cars at all that don’t have adequate crash standards and electronic stability control,” Ward said.
This month’s special crash test, supported by the US’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Latin NCAP, will take place on 27 October at the IIHS headquarters in Virginia, as part of Global NCAP’s annual meeting. The two vehicles will crash into each other with a 50% overlap and a combined closing speed of 80mph.
The manufacturer of the test cars will be announced next week, and is not officially supporting the test – indeed, at the time of writing, it isn’t yet aware that its cars are being used. Ward said the test isn’t a particular dig at that specific manufacturer, but instead is representative of several around the world.
“We’re encouraging manufacturers to apply this globally across their fleets voluntarily,” he said. “They don’t have to wait to be forced to do it. Some companies are doing it – for example, Toyota are fitting airbags to all their production cars in India, ahead of requirements, so it can be done. However, others are not so good and continue to sell vehicles that would be illegal in our markets.
“Mexico is a good example. The best selling car is the Chevrolet Aveo, which when tested by Latin NCAP last year got zero stars. We think it’s wrong that manufacturers are continuing to sell models like that. They should upgrade them, and it would be simple to standardise airbags.
“Their response is that they do what the government requires them to do, but we thank that’s a little bit speaking with forked tongue. In the case of Mexico, there’s an industry association that has lobbied for years, firstly against having any crash standards and then tried successfully to delay them. You can’t be convinced that a company like GM is being very straightforward when it could perfectly well do what we want, apply better standards and encourage the government to regulate, when in fact they’re doing the opposite. We don’t think that’s acceptable and that it’s a rather stupid strategy.”
Ward said he hopes the test will also raise awareness among governments, fleets and the public about the difference in minimum safety regulations around the world, and help promote improvement in developing countries. Large fleets are being deliberately targeted, as they have considerable influence due to the volume of business that they provide to manufacturers across the world.
“In the UK there are more fleet sales than private car sales, so fleet policies are very important,” Ward said. “Companies’ own internal policies are often trying to buy the safest vehicles for their employees. There’s a major mining company that will only buy five-star cars, and Shell will only buy four or five-star cars around the world. That’s increasingly a trend, and you can make quite a good business case for it – insurance data and evidence shows that crash avoidance technology are very worthwhile investments.”
Ward said the upcoming crash test – which will feature test dummies but won’t lead to any official safety ratings – should provide a stark example of Global NCAP’s case.
“We haven’t had the crash yet but we expect that the body shell of the Mexican car will collapse,” he said. “It doesn’t have airbags, and the other car has a better bodyshell and airbags. You’ll see very graphically the benefits of the safer vehicle, and it should be a very interesting test.”