Africa needs own crash test pro­gramme

ROAD SAFETY/ Hyundai says gov­ern­ments on the con­ti­nent must set a high min­i­mum safety stan­dard on en­try-level mod­els

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Hyundai is call­ing on Africa and Mid­dle East gov­ern­ments to sup­port lo­cal or re­gional New Car As­sess­ment Pro­grammes (NCAP), with con­sumers cur­rently com­par­ing re­sults from Europe or the US when mak­ing buy­ing de­ci­sions.

The com­pany’s head of op­er­a­tions for Africa and the Mid­dle East, Mike Song, says con­sumers in­creas­ingly con­sider NCAP rat­ings when choos­ing a new car. How­ever, he warns that buy­ers can be mis­led if they live out­side the mar­ket where test­ing takes place.

“NCAP stars are like horse­power or fuel econ­omy — they are a sci­en­tific mea­sure­ment that peo­ple can use to com­pare mod­els,” says Song. “That has trans­formed crash pro­tec­tion into a de­cid­ing fac­tor for many buy­ers. The prob­lem is NCAP tests are mar­ket-spe­cific, so that EuroNCAP tests, for ex­am­ple, only re­late to EU-spec­i­fi­ca­tion cars. The same model, as sold in a dif­fer­ent mar­ket, may not get the same re­sult.”

While the ba­sic struc­ture of a ve­hi­cle will usu­ally re­main con­sis­tent world­wide, many safety fea­tures are add-ons. This can in­clude airbags, three-point seat­belts rather than less safe lap-belts for rear seats, Isofix child seat fit­tings or ac­tive safety fea­tures such as elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol that help driv­ers keep con­trol of the ve­hi­cle.

The lat­est fea­tures of­fered in­clude au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing (AEB), lane de­par­ture warn­ing sys­tems or adap­tive cruise con­trol. NCAP schemes are con­sis­tently up­dated to in­cor­po­rate new tech­nol­ogy, of­ten far be­yond min­i­mum le­gal re­quire­ments.

“Buy­ers may not want some fea­tures, but they should have the power to make an in­formed de­ci­sion,” says Song.

“Lo­cally rel­e­vant NCAP test­ing can give them power.”

The first NCAP was launched in the US in 1979, backed by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and us­ing a series of tests to en­cour­age man­u­fac­tur­ers to build safer cars. To­day, a series of NCAPs world­wide re­late to na­tional mar­kets, such as Ja­pan, China and Korea, or to re­gional mar­kets such as Europe— the widely ref­er­enced EuroNCAP — Aus­tralia and New Zealand, Latin Amer­ica, and South­east Asia, with oth­ers in de­vel­op­ment.

A Global NCAP pro­vides ad­di­tional test­ing of mod­els sold in mar­kets with­out their own pro­gramme and has been ref­er­enced re­cently in sto­ries re­lat­ing to some of the ve­hi­cles be­ing sold in SA that would not pass many in­ter­na­tional NCAP crash test stan­dards.

At the moment there is no pro­gramme spe­cific to any part of Africa or the Mid­dle East but there are calls for it fol­low­ing the re­cent in­tro­duc­tion of the Safer Cars for Africa cam­paign in­tro­duced by Global NCAP and the Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion of SA.

“Many buy­ers and mar­kets are ex­tremely price sen­si­tive, and safety fea­tures are an area where it is too easy to trim the cost of an en­try-level model,” says Song. “Ide­ally, gov­ern­ments will set a high min­i­mum stan­dard to stop this. Where that is not pos­si­ble, NCAP test­ing can make sure con­sumers un­der­stand the risks and can en­cour­age bet­ter choices.”

SAFETY FEA­TURES ARE AN AREA WHERE IT IS TOO EASY TO TRIM THE COST OF AN EN­TRY-LEVEL MODEL

Above: A num­ber of cars sold in SA were tested re­cently but had to go to Europe to un­dergo the crash tests. Left: Mike Song, head of op­er­a­tions for Africa and the Mid­dle East at Hyundai.

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