Draw the cur­tains

A five-star crash rat­ing may spur Mercedes-Benz to de­liver a safer com­mer­cial fleet, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - Older cars do well, Page 30

CUR­TAIN airbags could be­come stan­dard across Mercedes-Benz’s work­horse range, af­ter the passenger ver­sion this week scored a five-star crash rat­ing.

The Viano, a passenger ver­sion of its load-lug­ging Vito, is the first com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle to earn a fives­tar rat­ing in the Aus­tralian New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gram.

Fit­ted with stan­dard and cur­tain side airbags, which are an $800 op­tion, the Viano was crashed side­ways into a pole at 29km/h at the Au­to­liv test site at Camp­bell­field.

Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles manag­ing di­rec­tor Ken Matthews says the com­pany has been en­cour­aged by the re­sult and is con­sid­er­ing mak­ing cur­tain airbags stan­dard. This would make the Vito a trend-set­ter in the com­mer­cial mar­ket: ‘‘It would make sense and could give us a com­mer­cial edge.’’

Matthews ad­mits that few busi­nesses or fleets are pre­pared to pay ex­tra for the life­sav­ing de­vice.

How­ever, oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety re­quire­ments could see cur­tain airbags be­come more im­por­tant in fu­ture pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions.

‘‘It’s a fact of life not every­one wants to pay for the best safety tech­nol­ogy,’’ he says.

Matthews says Mercedes-Benz ex­pects to sell about 2000 Vito vans in Aus­tralia this year.

‘‘We’re still a small player in a big mar­ket,’’ he says.

ANCAP chair­man, Lauch­lan McIn­tosh, has urged Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia to re­vise its airbag pol­icy for the com­mer­cial van.

‘‘If they did make the cur­tain airbags stan­dard on the Vito it would send a pos­i­tive sig­nal to other man­u­fac­tur­ers,’’ he says.

McIn­tosh wants other man­u­fac­tur­ers to ‘‘step up and build five-star vans and utes’’, par­tic­u­larly where they are used as work ve­hi­cles dur­ing the week and then trans­port fam­i­lies at week­ends.

‘‘They are the work­horses in so many applications,’’ he says.

McIn­tosh says there are more than 250,000 new vans on Aus­tralian roads but few had the safety fea­tures of the $39,490 Vito.

He de­scribes the crash re­sult as a mile­stone for crash safety in com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles.

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