Latin road safety leaders have accused General Motors and other major car brands of deliberately removing safety features from vehicles in order to increase profit margins in South America.
In a meeting hosted by Latin NCAP in Washington, USA, several members of road safety organisations expressed their anger at GM, claiming that it has actively chosen to sell models of its vehicles without basic safety equipment to the Latin markets, despite selling those same models elsewhere with airbags and electronic stability control systems as standard.
Several GM models have achieved zero or one star ratings in Latin NCAP crash testing, with many more from other key manufacturers receiving similarly dismal results.
The Chevrolet Aveo, which is Mexico’s best selling car with 80,000 units sold in 2015, falls well short of crash safety standards with zero stars to its name. Yet one recent survey said that 97% of Aveo owners in Mexico believe their cars are of a safe standard, illustrating just how unaware the population is of this problem.
Another GM product, the Chevrolet Sail, has recently received zero stars due to its "unstable structure", and perhaps surprisingly, Ford's Ranger - which is pick-up truck - achieved just three stars despite its large size. Latin NCAP said the average result came thanks to the car's lack of ESP. In other markets, the system is standard fitment.
Latin NCAP tests are less strict than the equivalent crash tests in Europe and North America, emphasising just how unsafe these vehicles are, and one speaker went so far as to call GM ‘General Manslaughter’. American consumer advocate Ralph Nader said that cars with no airbags for the Latin markets were built alongside cars with ESP and airbags for North America. He called this an act of “wilful manslaughter”.