Shock­ing that the Hard­body is such a softy

ROAD SAFETY/ Nis­san NP300 scores zero in crash test, while SA’s Hyundai i20 is not as safe as Euro­pean ver­sions, writes Mark Smyth

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS -

In 2017, ve­hi­cle safety or­gan­i­sa­tion Global NCAP and the Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion of SA (AA SA) teamed up to test a num­ber of en­try-level ve­hi­cles on sale in the South African mar­ket.

Some of the re­sults were shock­ing, although to many not sur­pris­ing in a coun­try that has out­dated ve­hi­cle safety stan­dards and an ap­par­ent lack of con­sumer de­mand for it.

Re­cently the or­gan­i­sa­tions teamed up again and we were there to wit­ness the live crash tests of two of the four ve­hi­cles tested: the Hyundai i20 and Toy­ota Yaris. The other two ve­hi­cles tested were the Kia Pi­canto and Nis­san NP300 Hard­body.

It is the lat­ter which raises the most ques­tions. The pop­u­lar NP300 Hard­body re­ceived a zero star rat­ing and just two stars for child oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion in the frontal off­set col­li­sion test at 64km/h. Ac­cord­ing to the test re­sults “the ve­hi­cle struc­ture col­lapsed dur­ing the crash test and it was rated as un­sta­ble”. Take a look at the pic­ture, it tells it all.

“It is as­ton­ish­ing that a global com­pany like Nis­san can pro­duce a car to­day as poorly en­gi­neered as this,” says David Ward, sec­re­tary gen­eral of Global NCAP.

“The NP300 Hard­body is ridicu­lously mis­named as its body shell has col­lapsed. Nis­san also claim the car ben­e­fits from a so-called ‘safety shield’ but this is grossly mis­lead­ing. Our test shows that the oc­cu­pant com­part­ment com­pletely fails to ab­sorb the en­ergy of the crash re­sult­ing in a high risk of fa­tal­ity or in­jury,” he says.

The re­sult should ring alarm bells for con­sumers and also for Nis­san, which has al­ready been heav­ily crit­i­cised for sell­ing the Dat­sun Go in SA and the Re­naultNis­san Al­liance ve­hi­cle, the Re­nault Kwid, both of which fail to meet most global safety stan­dards. It also comes at a time when Nis­san SA is aim­ing to ex­pand LCV pro­duc­tion num­bers in Africa.

TOP PRI­OR­ITY

In re­sponse, Nis­san SA’s cor­po­rate af­fairs direc­tor, Wonga Me­satywa, told us: “The safety of our cus­tomers is Nis­san’s top pri­or­ity. All of our cars meet or ex­ceed reg­u­la­tions in all coun­tries in which they are sold.

“The Nis­san NP300 is a tried and trusted part­ner for busi­nesses and en­trepreneurs, pro­vid­ing reli­a­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity. Con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ments are be­ing made to the NP300 such as dual airbags and ABS brakes which are fit­ted as stan­dard equip­ment. Nis­san is study­ing fur­ther en­hance­ments.”

The NP300 is not a new model, and while the zero score for adult oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion is un­jus­ti­fi­able, the re­sult of the crash test of the Hyundai i20 also raises ques­tions. Last month, Hyundai sold 655 i20 mod­els in SA but while its three star adult oc­cu­pant crash test re­sult will be deemed ac­cept­able, it is the ques­tion of whether Hyundai is us­ing dif­fer­ent me­tal in its body shells for the model in SA com­pared to those in Europe that is con­cern­ing.

The ve­hi­cle re­ceived a fourstar safety rat­ing on a much stricter scale with Euro NCAP.

Ac­cord­ing to Ale­jan­dro Furas, tech­ni­cal direc­tor of Global NCAP, there is a clear dif­fer­ence in the ma­te­ri­als used in the ve­hi­cle sold in Europe and the ve­hi­cle sold in SA. That raises se­ri­ous con­cerns about whether Hyundai is putting profit ahead of the safety of con­sumers in SA and in Africa.

We ap­proached Hyundai both in SA and in­ter­na­tion­ally for com­ment but none was forth­com­ing by the time we went to print.

Hyundai’s sis­ter com­pany Kia re­ceived a three-star rat­ing for its small Pi­canto, which was also the only ve­hi­cle tested that had a bodyshell de­scribed as “sta­ble” in the crash test.

A ri­val to the i20, the lat­est gen­er­a­tion Toy­ota Yaris was also tested and it too scored three stars for adult oc­cu­pant safety. It also re­ceived a re­port stat­ing that “the ve­hi­cle struc­ture was rated as un­sta­ble and of­fered mar­ginal to good gen­eral adult oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion”. How­ever it scored marginally higher than the Hyundai and pro­vided a bet­ter level of rear seat child pro­tec­tion for chil­dren se­cured in the ve­hi­cle cor­rectly.

Toy­ota SA gave us the fol­low­ing state­ment: “The Yaris that is cur­rently sold in SA is built in Thai­land ac­cord­ing to the same ex­act­ing stan­dards de­manded of all Toy­ota mo­tor ve­hi­cles around the world. Toy­ota con­firms that this par­tic­u­lar model scored five stars in the Asean NCAP (New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gramme for South­east Asian Coun­tries) crash test which was con­ducted in May 2017.”

The com­pany did state that safety stan­dards do dif­fer de­pend­ing on the de­mands of cer­tain mar­kets: “The Euro NCAP, for ex­am­ple, is lo­cated in a rel­a­tively wealth­ier part of the world. As such, it needs to in­tro­duce stricter re­quire­ments, to set the bar for a five-star rat­ing suf­fi­ciently high. Con­versely, it is un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect Asean NCAP or Latin NCAP, which are from de­vel­op­ing mar­kets, or even small mar­kets like Aus­tralia and New Zealand (ANCAP) to adopt a sim­i­larly tough stance as Euro NCAP as do­ing so will only de­feat the pur­pose of mak­ing safer cars ac­ces­si­ble to all.”

This dif­fer­ence in mar­ket de­mands is some­thing Furas also ac­knowl­edges when it comes to the test­ing stan­dards: “If we ap­plied Euro stan­dards to South African cars then prob­a­bly most cars would be zero cars,” he told us. But the aim is to es­tab­lish a safety pro­gramme for SA and Africa and to do so, man­u­fac­tur­ers and in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions, as well as gov­ern­ment, need to take ve­hi­cle safety more se­ri­ously.

“Man­u­fac­tur­ers will not chase Euro­pean stan­dards be­cause they know they will not pass. They will chase the fives­tar stan­dard for SA.”

With more than 14,000 peo­ple dy­ing ev­ery year on SA’s roads, should safety only be for other coun­tries?

IF WE AP­PLIED EURO STAN­DARDS TO SOUTH AFRICAN CARS THEN PROB­A­BLY MOST CARS WOULD BE ZERO CARS THE LAT­EST TOY­OTA YARIS WAS ALSO TESTED AND IT TOO SCORED THREE STARS FOR ADULT OC­CU­PANT SAFETY

The Nis­san NP300 Hard­body ‘col­lapsed’ in the stan­dard im­pact test lead­ing to a zero star rat­ing. Below: The re­sults of the lat­est Global NCAP crash tests on ve­hi­cles sold in SA pro­vide some alarm­ing re­sults.

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