The safety of vehicles available in the South African market has been highlighted by the launch of a new round of #SaferCarsForAfrica crash test results by Global NCAP and the Automobile Association (AA).
The latest results have led to the AA renewing its call for the safety ratings to be displayed on new vehicles in dealer showrooms.
The latest Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) crash tests led to the Mazda 2, with driver and passenger airbags, achieving four stars for adult occupant protection and three stars for children.
The Nissan Almera, with driver and passenger airbags, scored three stars for adult occupants and three stars for children.
The Mazda 2 available in South Africa is manufactured in Thailand while the Nissan Almera is produced in India.
Global NCAP and the AA said both models showed seat failures during testing.
The Nissan Almera experienced a seat detachment during testing while the Mazda had a backrest failure.
Failures raised with manufacturers
“Although these did not have significant effects on our assessment ratings, which are based on injury criteria, the failures are of serious concern and Global NCAP has raised them with each manufacturer as a matter of urgency.
“Both models were equipped with ISOFIX anchorages and combined with effective Child Restraint Systems (CRS) showed good protection in the dynamic test.
“Neither vehicle offers the possibility of disconnecting the passenger airbag when a rearward facing CRS is installed in the passenger seat,” they said.
Comment on the Global NCAP tests results was requested from Mazda Southern Africa but a response has not yet been received.
Nissan Africa Regional Business Unit corporate communications lead Vuyokazi Quphe said the safety of Nissan’s customers is the company’s top priority and all of its vehicles meet safety regulations in all countries in which they are sold.
“The 3-star rating awarded to Almera by Global NCAP is competitive within its segment, reflecting the model’s many safety features including driver and passenger airbags and anti-lock braking.
“Nissan continues to introduce safety technologies and features into our global product range and we actively encourage and support advancements in safety regulations for the benefit of our customers,” he said.
This is the fifth round of #SaferCarsForAfrica crash tests and increases the number of models tested to 18.
Driver seat failures ‘of concern’
Alejandro Furas, secretary-general of the new car assessment programme for Latin America and the Caribbean and the technical director of Global NCAP, said although the latest #SaferCarsForAfrica tests showed average results, Global NCAP is concerned that both cars had failures in their driver seats, which were more severe in the Nissan Almera than in the Mazda 2.
“Global NCAP calls on both car makers to review these failures as a matter of urgency.
“We would also call on them to improve the basic safety offered in these models as standard, adding Electronic Stability Control (ESC), pedestrian protection and side body and head airbags as soon as possible,” he said.
Global NCAP is a programme of the UK registered charity, the Towards Zero Foundation.
Foundation executive president David Ward said it is troubling to see seat failures of the kind revealed in their latest #SaferCarsForAfrica tests.
Ward urged Mazda and Nissan to address these issues as a priority and more generally to significantly improve the safety features equipped on their models as standard.
“Consumers in Africa deserve the same levels of vehicle safety performance which are taken for granted in other parts of the world,” he said.
Furas said manufacturers in general do react to NCAP test results, particularly if the results will affect the sales of the vehicle.
“Then they will immediately react to improve that or get away from that poor result.
“They either decide to cancel the car or change it for a new model or volunteer for testing a better performing model or just improve whatever they have available,” he said.
AA pushes for better standards
AA CEO Willem Groenewald said the #SaferCarsforAfrica initiative is an important programme for the AA as it continues to push for better safety standards on vehicles for local consumers.
Groenewald said the results of the fifth round of testing are encouraging, especially the four star rating achieved by the Mazda 2.
“However, the results show there are still some safety deficiencies on vehicles available in South Africa and this should, again, serve as a marker to manufacturers and safety authorities of the need for improved basic safety features which should be offered as standard on all models available locally,” he said.
AA spokesperson Layton Beard said the association continues to raise the need for the display of safety ratings on new vehicles on dealer showroom floors in meetings and with the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) and National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS).
However, Beard stressed this is something that needs to be consumer-driven.
“We can agitate as much as we want and we can advocate for it to happen but unless there is consumer pressure and unless that pressure is brought to bear on the regulators and authorities, it’s going to be a very long stretch,” he said.
Furas believes manufacturers will start reacting much more quickly to the NCAP results when its more stringent safety protocols are introduced from 2022 because the test results will be worse.
He stressed NCAP is an independent consumer when it does testing and buys the car from a dealer and takes it to their laboratories and run tests.
Pedestrian protection in line for assessment next year
Furas said NCAP performs tests and assessments on vehicles for pedestrian safety and protection but, for the time being in Africa, it is only assessing the protection of occupants in vehicles.
“But in the next protocol, as from next year, we are going to include pedestrian protection.
“It is more than passive safety. What we are looking at is how the car is designed in the front, not just the shape, and also the materials used.
“Instead of using a complete dummy, we are using dummy parts – so body parts like a head and leg. We are launching those against different areas of the car and measuring the ‘injuries’,” he said.
Beard said the AA welcomes the introduction of the new protocol in Africa and its focus also on pedestrian protection.
“Up to 40% of all deaths on South African roads annually are pedestrians,” said Beard.
“That is part of the reason why the new protocols, with these pedestrian safety features, are very important specifically from a South African point of view.
“But it also reinforces the visibility campaigns the AA runs and the need for greater pedestrian safety education.”