Latin NCAP: car safety still too low but some progress made 

The Renault Sandero was tested in third phase of Latin NCAP scoring 1 star as did the JAC J3.
The Ford Fiesta joined other models from Renault, Honda, VW and Toyota in achieving 4 stars.

The latest crash test results released by Latin NCAP reveal that the safety levels of some popular cars sold in the region are still twenty years behind the industrialised countries and below global standards. However, there has been some progress with more cars achieving a four star safety rating and two manufacturers making air bags standard in the models tested. The results were launched in Buenos Aires on 13 November.

The worst performing cars of the eight tested in Latin NCAP’s third phase were the Renault Sandero and the JAC J3 (click here to see the full results for 2012). The Sandero achieved just one star caused by the model’s unstable performance of the body shell and lack of airbags. This is a disappointing result from Renault, a manufacturer with a good reputation for safety in Europe. The company is clearly capable of doing much better as shown by the other Renault model tested (the Fluence) which gained four stars. The JAC 3 also only gained one star despite having two airbags. This shows clearly the vital importance of body shell strength in protecting occupants in a crash.

Air bags cannot compensate for poor structural crashworthiness and Latin NCAP strongly believes that consumers should not be misled by manufacturers that are relying on airbags alone to give a false impression of safety. Just including an airbag will not guarantee safety. That is why both the public and governments need to be able to verify the structural integrity of the vehicle. This can be done by applying the United Nation’s crash test standards (regulations R94 and R95) and giving consumers the opportunity to compare the safety performance of different models as Latin NCAP is now doing.

More encouraging in phase three is the significant increase in the number of four star cars. Five models achieved four stars showing the combined benefits of improved body shell strength, air bags and seat belts. The four star models are the Ford New Fiesta KD, Honda City, Renault Fluence, Toyota Etios hatchback and the VW Polo hatchback. The remaining model tested, the Volkswagen Clasico/Bora scored just three stars held back by its poor structural integrity.

In a very encouraging additional step forward Ford and VW have confirmed that airbags for the driver and front passenger will now be a standard fitment in the Ford New Fiesta and the Volkswagen Clasico/Bora for all Latin NCAP markets. Latin NCAP strongly welcomes this action in advance of forthcoming legislative requirements in some major Latin American countries.

Another sign of progress in these test results is the achievement for the first time of four stars for child protection. Two models, the Ford Fiesta and the Honda City, achieved this welcome improvement in child safety. The use of the ISOFIX child restraint system played a significant role in reducing the probability of wrong installation and generally improved the dynamic performance. Latin NCAP recommends ISOFIX and encourages all governments, car makers and suppliers in the region to support ISOFIX on the basis of the UN’s R44 regulation.

Latin NCAP is also pleased with the continuing signs of constructive dialogue with car manufacturers.  The willingness of some leading manufacturers to change their production and bring safer models to the market is very welcome and demonstrates the benefits of Latin NCAPs efforts to raise consumer awareness of the safety performance of cars being sold in the region.

Carlos Macaya FIA Foundation Trustee and member of the Latin NCP Steering Committee, said:

"Now that Latin NCAP is in its third year, we are starting to see some real benefits in terms of improved road safety for Latin America. Latin NCAP is proving its worth. There are now more four star cars entering the market and the message is clear - much higher standards of vehicle safety are not only perfectly possible, but absolutely crucial across the region. The upward trend in safety must continue. We cannot tolerate anything less as lives depend on it."

Max Mosley, Global NCAP Chairman said:

“It is frankly shocking that major manufacturers are willing to offer one star cars for sale in Latin America when as a matter of routine their cars achieve five stars in Europe. Fortunately with Latin NCAP putting vehicle safety on the agenda we are now seeing some progress. The increase in cars earning four stars is welcome and brings us closer to the day when one star cars, which would fail even to pass the UN’s basic crash tests, are eliminated from the market entirely”.

María Fernanda Rodríguez, Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez President said:

“We remain concerned because while we begin to see a slight improvement in adult front occupants, we also see that child's safety is not improving in the same way. We still have the most of vehicles tested, which are top-sellers in the region, with only 2 stars for children. This year it was demonstrated how ISOFIX can make the difference. We believe that ISOFIX is a good example of how something inexpensive can generate a large impact. This little device should be included in all new vehicles as soon as possible, as it is included in developed countries.”

Jorge Tomasi, Presidente of FIA Region IV and President of the Auto Club of Uruguay said:

“Although it is important to highlight the passing of laws in some countries like Brazil and Argentina  that makes, as from 2014, the manufacturing of vehicles with safety devices compulsory (ABS, Airbags), this type of equipment does not guarantee safety in vehicles. Until now Latin NCAP Program results have demonstrated in some cases a very clear difference in structural safety between models manufactured in Latin America and Europe. There are now the means and technologies to have better safety standards in the Latin American fleet. For this to happen, a plan of action will be necessary, one including governments, manufacturers, private organizations, and most important, consumers, who should be aware of the advantages and the need for safer cars”.

Latin NCAP contributes to the vehicle safety pillar of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. With phase three completed Latin NCAP has now tested 26 models including most of the region’s best selling cars. The Latin New Car Assessment Programme (Latin NCAP) was launched in 2010 as a three year pilot project to explore the potential contribution that a regional system of independent crashworthiness and safety rating can make to road safety in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC). Latin NCAP replicates similar programmes that have developed over the last thirty years in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, which have proved to be very effective in improving the safety of motor vehicles.

The Latin NCAP pilot project has been managed by a partnership of the Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, the FIA Region IV, the FIA Foundation, the Global NCAP and ICRT, together with support from the Inter-American Development Bank.

An issue that is a cause for concern to Latin NCAP is the conformity of production that models should maintain from their original approval for sale and the remaining period they are sold in the regions markets. The lack of UN based vehicle safety standards across Latin America and the absence of vehicle testing laboratories make it hard for governments to be sure that all manufacturers will maintain the quality of the vehicles being sold in their markets. Latin NCAP recommends a discussion with policy-makers on this issue especially in those countries with significant vehicle production facilities. 

Latin NCAP is currently undertaking a consultation with governments, consumer groups, motoring clubs, insurance providers, manufacturers, safety experts, and the general public. The consultation will help to shape the future of Latin NCAP as it prepares to establish itself as a permanent legal entity promoting road safety and serving the interests of consumers across Latin America and the Caribbean.

For full details of all the results see