On the Road

How safe is your car? Influencing car buying decisions in the Asean

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When consumers buy a car in an industrialized country, aka a “mature market,” it’s a given that the vehicle has safety features such as six airbags, Advanced Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control, seatbelt pretensioners, etc.  But when you buy a car in an emerging market like the Philippines, you have to check the specifications to make sure that it has at least some of the safety equipment taken for granted in the United States, Europe and Japan. For example, in most emerging markets, two instead of six airbags is the accepted standard unless you acquire a premium-priced luxury car.

Government regulations on vehicle safety are usually minimal and not very strictly enforced. Fortunately for consumers, in 1997 in Brussels, a nonprofit international organization was founded to provide independent and realistic safety performance assessments of new cars. Called Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Program), it tests the most widely sold cars for crashworthiness and reports the results to inform and influence the car buying decisions of consumers.

Since Euro NCAP proved to be effective in creating a market for safety that encourages car buyers to choose safer products, in 2011 the nonprofit Global NCAP was organized to promote the worldwide availability of independent consumer information about the safety of motor vehicles.  Registered in the United Kingdom with former Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) president Max Mosley as chair, Global NCAP supports the goals of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety which aims to cut in half the predicted increase in road fatalities by 2020.

CRASHWORTHINESS. Global NCAP offers technical support guidance and quality assurance for the development of new crash test programs in emerging markets that are experiencing rapid motorization but lack independent consumer information on crashworthiness.  At present, the members of Global NCAP are Euro NCAP, the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Safercar.gov (US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), Ancap (Australasian NCAP), JNCAP (Japan NCAP), C-NCAP (China NCAP), KNCAP (Korean NCAP), Latin NCAP (“Para autos mas seguros”) and Asean NCAP.

Asean NCAP was formed in December 2011 at the annual meeting of the FIA Foundation in New Delhi, India when Global NCAP and the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) signed a collaborative memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a three-year pilot project for an Asean New Car Assessment Program to elevate motor vehicle standards in the Southeast Asian region and encourage a market for safer vehicles.  The signatories to the MOU were Global NCAP secretary general David Ward, Miros director general Dr. Wong Shaw Voon and representatives of the three automobile associations of Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippine Automobile Association and Australasian NCAP.

Now in its third and final year as a pilot project, Asean NCAP will announce on May 5 the results of Phase 3 crash tests conducted at Miros. The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on road safety that calls on Member States to implement NCAPs in all regions of the world in order to improve the availability of consumer information about the safety performance of motor vehicles.  The FIA Foundation for Global NCAP’s funding support and work with both the Latin and Asean NCAPs was cited during the UN debate.

FOUR STARS. Noting that the tiny Suzuki Celerio earned four stars in the Latin NCAP crash tests for Adult Occupant Protection and Child Occupant Protection while its sibling, the Suzuki Alto got zero stars, Global NCAP technical director Alejandro Furas said: “It demonstrates that you don’t need to have a large car, a heavy car or an expensive car to have a good level of safety: the Celerio is absolute proof of this.  Manufacturers know how to produce very affordable vehicles with very good safety performance—but it is a question of demanding it.”

At the annual meeting of the Automotive Safety Council in Florida last March 21, Global NCAP secretary general David Ward urged the auto industry to make a commitment to only build cars that can pass the United Nation’s front and side impact crash tests (Reg 94 and 95).  These tests have been mandatory in the European Union since 1998 and represent the minimum accepted level of vehicle crashworthiness in most industrialized countries.  According to Global NCAP, of the record level of 65 million new passenger cars built last year, as much as one-third would fail the basic safety standards.

A SIGNAL. Furas said that some manufacturers are leading the process of improving their vehicles, approaching the NCAPs rather than governments to ask what comes next.  “It’s a signal they’re taking the program as a reference.” He found it interesting because the NCAP will always have standards above those mandated by government regulation.

In contrast to the cutting-edge safety technologies that dominate the motor shows in Geneva and Tokyo, success for the Asean and Latin NCAPs would be represented by more modest gains: more airbags as standard, structural reinforcements retained, Isofix anchors.  “These are the real technologies that will have the greatest impact on reducing death and serious injury on the road.  Widening their use will do more for road safety than most new technologies being developed.”

Sources: AUTO International Journal of the FIA, Miros official website, globalncap, aseancap.org



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