The organisation that assesses new car safety standards responds to criticism that emerging-market vehicles shouldn't be judged by European criteria

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.” 

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Comments
6

5 March 2014
Unfair !!! Why, because the life of an Indian is worth less than the life of a US citizen or European? If the cars are being built to price at the cost of personal safety, they are unsafe - end of. They may be safer than using a motorbike, or using roller skates or using a unicycle, but that does not excuse the fact that these cars are unsafe.

5 March 2014
I agree with scotty5, there is no excuse for deliberately building unsafe cars, for any market.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

5 March 2014
I usually have a fair amount of respect for Nissan, as someone who's owned one of their products for a long time and gotten a good amount of use out of it. However, on this occasion I cannot agree in the slightest with what Andy Palmer is saying - to suggest that buyers in emerging markets should put up with substandard safety simply because they can't afford any better is bordering on scandalous. The manufacturers have enough accumulated knowledge, and access to cost-effective production techniques, to build cars which measure up to the required standard, and if they refuse to do so they should be condemned for taking such a cavalier attitude. I am very disappointed indeed that a senior representative of a company like Nissan would make such comments.

6 March 2014
It doesnt surprise... Mercedes recently threw a wobbly when its C class scored "poor" when the iihs introduced a small over lap crash test. They deemed the test as irrelevant, despite the fact accident statistics showed this scenario accounted for 25% of crash fatalities.

I still remember the furore when the Euroncap tests were introduced with a lot of car companies saying they werent realistic, waste of money etc.

What they really meant to say was that were angry because they were about to get caught with their trousers down.

Its obvious that crash engineering is bothersome for these firms. God, we had to engineer for ride and handling, and then noise, vibration and harshness and now crash safety too? My God, the costs! Our marketing men say that Indians wont pay an additional £300 for airbags and side impact bars because they dont care about their lives in the way Europeans do!

The simple message is... if you care about safety, buy a Volvo! In all of the crashtests I have read about around the world, they have never done badly. This is unlike any other car brand. They never complain about independent crash testing, infact welcoming it as a useful tool to bring up safety standards and save lives across the board. I would be shocked if a V40 sold in China offered less crash protection than one sold in Europe, unlike say the VW Polo (infairness, VW actually got embarassed and pulled their trousers up making airbags mandatory on all Polos sold in India... they arent frantically waving their willies like Nissan). Volvo are the only car company to have built a custom crash facility, simulating serious real life accidents investigated by a dedicated accident investigation team, a team who goes out to real accidents involving Volvos recovering wreckage and conducting forensic analysis.

6 March 2014
Unlike the others, I get his point. It's not that he doesn't care for emerging market's people. It's that THEY don't. If they don't want to spend more on a pair of airbags, that is their choice. What if he add airbags and get more expensive than competition? Well, clients will choose another product. A cheaper one, or one with a nice stereo instead of airbags cause that is what they want.

Stop thinking as a European. Those clients want what they want, and it's not the same thing everywhere around the world. In India for example, some small cars could receive airbags with a supplement. so people could pay an extra and get it. But did they? No.

Or why should we stop at airbags? Why no ABS, stability control, auto braking stuff? It could save the lives... of the ones who can afford it!

6 March 2014
I have to agree with you. There are plenty of cars on the market in developing countries with airbags and other safety features yet the really cheap cars with minimal safety protection still sell. Perhaps the solution is for governments in countries like India to make airbags mandatory. Yes it will push up the prices but I doubt it would force people back to motorbikes - cars are aspirational, people would just save a little longer.

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