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