Opinion is divided over the worth of subjecting emerging-market cars to Euro-spec safety tests
The secretary general of Global NCAP, the organisation that assesses the safety standards of new cars around the world, has dismissed claims that stringent tests on budget cars built for emerging markets are misguided.
Global NCAP recently branded Indian-market cars such as the Tata Nano and Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800 as “unsafe”, after subjecting them to its crash tests.
But Nissan boss Andy Palmer labelled the criticism of the cars as “absurd”. He added: “I think the people who criticise these cars for not meeting US or European crash standards are living in a dream world.”
Palmer said: “We are talking about cars built to transport people who would otherwise be four or five-up on a motorcycle. These people today can’t afford more, and if we fit safety systems we will drive the prices up and they’ll choose the motorbike again. A car with a body and individual seats is much safer than a bike.”
Nissan recently launched the Datsun Go, a new budget vehicle for the emerging markets.
Global NCAP’s secretary general David Ward countered: “Andy Palmer is entirely wrong. The UN’s basic crash standard for front impact is not costly to apply. To pass it only requires a single driver airbag and reasonable body shell integrity, which today many global platforms already provide.
“These standards have been in force in Europe since 1998 and as part of the current UN Decade of Action for Road Safety are increasingly being applied around the world. They are affordable and should be a global minimum.
“No one is suggesting change overnight – that’s why it is a Decade of Action. Whether Palmer likes it or not, the growth of New Car Assessment Programmes (NCAPs) around the world will build demand for safer cars.
“Nissan seems to want to persist in selling products like the Nissan Tsuru in Mexico which scored very badly (zero stars) when tested last year by Latin NCAP. The argument that unsafe cars are substituting for motorcycles is weak. With global harmonisation of UN crash standards the limited extra costs will be reduced even further.
“Some in the car industry foolishly resisted the introduction of these crash tests in Europe in the mid-1990s. Andy Palmer will make the same mistake again if he stands against the UN’s efforts to improve vehicle safety in the Decade of Action.”