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Max Mosley asks car company bosses for minimum crash safety standards

Max Mosley asks car company bosses for minimum crash safety standards
Tristan Honeywill

Global NCAP’s chairman Max Mosley has written to the heads of global carmakers, asking them to consider a voluntary commitment to adopt minimum safety standards in the cars they sell in emerging markets. Mosley asked the CEOs to use the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety as an opportunity to address road deaths, a major public health concern in places like Brazil and India.

“Car production is exceeding 60 million units annually due to rapid growth in car sales in emerging markets,” said Mosley. “Road injury has become a major public health concern in these places and we estimate that as many as 20 million of the vehicles produced each year are likely to fail the UN’s minimum crash test standards. Consumer crash testing in emerging markets, undertaken by Latin NCAP for example, confirms disturbingly poor levels of occupant protection in some best-selling models.”

The type of voluntary commitment that Global NCAP is calling for is not unusual. In 2006, the car industry undertook to ensure that seatbelts would be fitted in all models by 2008. The scope of Global NCAP’s request is a good deal greater, however.

The organisation is asking that by 2015 all vehicles should meet international standards for seatbelts and anchorages (ECE R16 and R14) and basic standards for front and side impacts (ECE R94 and R95). By 2020, it would like to see electronic stability control (ESC) and pedestrian protection measures made standard.

Letters have been sent to the CEOs of all the global car companies. Some should have no problem with such a commitment: premium manufacturers such as BMW, Volvo and Daimler manufacture all their vehicles to exceed these minimum standards.

Others are likely to complain that this will add costs to cars in highly competitive markets. The standard response is that their cars “meet all local legal requirements”, an argument often used when there are no local safety standards at all. It’s also worth remembering that prices for new cars in these booming regions can actually be higher than for similar European or US models, particularly when options like a driver airbag are added.

It will be interesting to see if there are any direct responses from the CEOs, but in the meantime cars with sub-standard safety will continue to roll off the lines at a rate of more than 50,000 per day. That may be good for shareholder value, but with 1.2 million killed each year in road accidents, it’s not what you’d call good business.

It’s worth remembering that prices for new cars in these booming regions can be than for similar European or US models.

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