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Is BMW ashamed of the i3’s safety rating?

Is BMW ashamed of the i3’s safety rating?
Tristan Honeywill

BMW should be proud of the four-star rating the i3 electric vehicle has achieved in the latest round of Euro NCAP results. This is an innovative vehicle built using unconventional materials and manufacturing processes. Given that Euro NCAP has been steadily making its assessment more challenging, a four-star safety is still respectable.

BMW’s marketing people don’t like it, however. In an official response to the Euro NCAP rating, BMW has tried to sweep the four-star rating under the carpet, instead awarding themselves “top marks for safety”.

BMW knows what it takes to get five-stars. The 5 Series and 3 Series both achieved very good pedestrian safety scores. They both offered good levels of safety assist technology as standard.

Euro NCAP Secretary General Michiel van Ratingen said: “It’s clear that BMW targeted a four-star performance from the get-go, likely as a result of searching the right balance between safety, vehicle weight, power consumption and price.”

Even if the i3’s pedestrian score had been better than the 57% it got, the car still couldn’t get a five-star safety rating. It just doesn’t fit enough basic safety equipment as standard. All it would take is either seat belt reminders on the rear seats or a speed limiter that the driver can set manually if they choose. Even then, Euro NCAP says that the BMW might also have had to improve adult occupant protection slightly as well.

“In essence, this decision by BMW is no different from budget brands removing safety equipment to keep the price of a car low”

Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP Secretary General

“In essence, this decision by BMW is no different from budget brands removing safety equipment to keep the price of a car low,” said van Ratingen.

In its statement, BMW criticizes the lack of crash prevention technologies in Euro NCAP’s assessments. The i3 doesn’t get any points for its “Driving Assistant Plus” complains the company. That doesn’t really wash, however: Euro NCAP normally just considers a car’s standard equipment. Driving Assistant Plus is an option and less than one in five customers buy it.

And, despite what BMW claims, fitting a pedestrian detection system isn’t a good reason for reducing the impact protection for pedestrians. These systems are still in their infancy and none work perfectly, particularly in poor light or bad weather when the risks of hitting somebody an accident are greater.

Other car makers, including Mercedes, Volvo and Lexus, also offer systems that can detect and brake for pedestrians, but their cars also still offer good protection in case a collision still happens.

From next year, Euro NCAP will start to assess autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems. Everybody is now looking forward to seeing how well BMW’s systems perform.

Like all the car companies, BMW knows Euro NCAP’s tests and procedures inside out. They were involved in their development. BMW has the knowledge and experience to build all their vehicles well beyond Euro NCAP’s safety levels.

I don’t think BMW should be ashamed of the i3’s four-star safety rating. They got the result they played for.




  1. WTF

    There is a precedent for EuroNCAP embarrassment when it comes to BMW…remember the E60 5-Series which couldn’t manage 5 stars at a time when every single model in Renault’s lineup had cracked it? BMW has never been a leader in impact protection and likely never will be, just like Mercedes-Benz will never be a leader in roadholding and handling balance. It’s just not what they’ve ever sold their customers…

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