Crash test results have once again highlighted the difference in the safety standards of vehicles available in South Africa versus other markets.
Serious concerns about the poor levels of adult and child protection were raised by the latest crash test results for the Great Wall Motors (GWM) Steed 5 pick-up, the Haval H1 five-door sport utility vehicle and the Renault Kwid five-door, when the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) and the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) – supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the FIA Foundation – launched the fourth round of #SaferCarsForAfrica crash test results on Thursday.
Global NCAP secretary general Alejandro Furas said the GWM Steed 5 was “zero-star rated”, with both the Haval H1 and Renault Kwid earning two-star ratings for adults and two stars for child occupants.
“The potential for life threatening injury in the Steed 5 follows the zero-star performance of the Nissan Hardbody pick up. The contrast between the marketing claims for such vehicles and the reality of their poor safety performance could not be more stark,” he said.
Towards Zero Foundation President David Ward said it is a worrying set of results for the safety of both adult and child occupants in these popular African cars, adding the zero rating for the GWM Steed 5 “should be ringing alarm bells for any consumer considering the purchase of a Steed 5 pick up”.
The foundation serves as a platform for co-operation between organisations committed to road injury prevention.
Ward said that from the foundation’s global perspective, with successful crash test programmes in India and Latin America, it could track the varying safety equipment specifications for cars manufactured in one market and sold in others.
“It’s therefore surprising to note that the Renault Kwid developed for Latin America, based on the original Indian version, has a better adult and child occupant protection performance, includes standard ISOFIX anchorages as well as dual front and side airbags,” he said.
Safety rating labelling
Furas on Thursday made a renewed call on the government to make the safety rating labelling of vehicles a mandatory requirement.
He said if a fleet manager or fleet purchase agent decides to require a vehicle with a higher-star rating “that can be a game changer for the whole market very quickly”.
AA CEO Willem Groenewald added that if the safety standard could be fixed on vehicles from a regulatory perspective, public awareness could be raised and consumer behaviour would by default alter commercial behaviour.
The Global NCAP’s #SaferCarsForAfrica drive with the AA aims to raise public awareness about vehicle safety standards. The campaign was launched by Global NCAP in 2017 with the objective of promoting safer vehicles across Africa.
Furas said Global NCAP believes there should not be any difference between the safety ratings of vehicle models that are available in Africa and other markets.
“We should get the same safety levels and safety performance in cars as consumers from Europe, the US, Australia and Japan of any model. That is our philosophy,” he said.
Furas stressed that the Global NCAP test exceeds the standards required to be met for the regulatory test.
“We are not criticising at all that the manufacturers are not meeting the requirements. They are meeting the regulations required in South Africa otherwise they won’t be legal to be sold.”
However, Furas said that from a safety standard perspective, the South African government is not properly monitoring the regulations and there may be certain cases where manufacturers “are probably unintentionally not meeting those regulatory standards”.
“We are testing performance so we don’t care how many airbags there are in the car, we don’t care where the car is produced, we don’t care about the price, we don’t care about the manufacturer.
“We just test a car and we need to make sure that the people inside are protected. So the better protection you have for people inside, the better star-rating the vehicle gets,” said Ward.
He said it is important to note that the Global NCAP frontal crash test is done at 64kmh while the speed for the regulatory speed is lower at 56kmh.
He stressed the regulatory test is “just a minimum pass or fail test” while the Global NCAP test is trying to measure the different performances and compare those performances between manufacturers.
Ward said 64kmh is the speed that most NCAPs use because it is also trying to concentrate on what causes the most fatal injuries at a high speed.
“Of the tests we have just done, the Renault Kwid and Haval H1 most certainly passed the basic crash test. It’s more questionable about the Great Wall [Steed 5] because we tested at a higher speed,” he said.
Watch the crash test film here:
Falling on deaf ears?
Groenewald said the AA has been calling for an improvement in the vehicle safety standards set by government since the #SaferCarsforAfrica programme’s first results were launched in 2017.
“We have spoken to the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards about standards and although the evidence is clear, we are eager to see movement in this regard.
“Action is needed, and needed now because it’s about protecting South African citizens,” Groenewald said.
Attempts to obtain comment from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa were unsuccessful.
National Automobile Dealers’ Association national chairperson Mark Dommisse said consumers must do their research into the safety ratings of the vehicle they are considering buying.
Dommisse said there are cars in South Africa that have very low safety ratings, but they are coming to the end of their lifecycle and “the new one’s coming in are better”.
He added that there is merit in considering vehicle safety rating labelling on vehicles.