Pressure grows on car makers to meet minimum UN, and moral, safety standards

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The basic Renault Duster, sold in India without an airbag, scored zero stars.
The basic Renault Duster, sold in India without an airbag, scored zero stars.
In Latin America the 5 star SEAT Ateca comes with 7 air bags and ESC as standard.
In Latin America the 5 star SEAT Ateca comes with 7 air bags and ESC as standard.
UN Special Envoy Jean Todt is leading calls for car makers to make a Voluntary Agreement to meet minimum UN standards.
UN Special Envoy Jean Todt is leading calls for car makers to make a Voluntary Agreement to meet minimum UN standards.
WHO Global Ambassador Michael Bloomberg has urged car makers to accept a Voluntary Agreement.
WHO Global Ambassador Michael Bloomberg has urged car makers to accept a Voluntary Agreement.
FIA Foundation Chairman Lord Robertson: “Car makers are running out of time and excuses”.
FIA Foundation Chairman Lord Robertson: “Car makers are running out of time and excuses”.

International car manufacturers are under growing pressure to ensure all vehicles they sell meet minimum UN safety standards, in a campaign supported by the FIA Foundation.

As recent car crash tests undertaken by Global NCAP in Latin America and India show some leading car makers are still producing ‘zero star’ cars, the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, and the WHO Global Ambassador for Non Communicable Diseases, Michael Bloomberg, have both urged car makers to voluntarily meet minimum UN vehicle safety standards in all automobile markets. Global NCAP estimates that around a third of the 60 million vehicles produced globally each year still fail to meet basic UN standards for occupant crash protection or provide safety equipment, like passenger airbags, that are now the norm in developed countries.

The FIA Foundation is a key supporter of this effort, as a core donor to both Global NCAP and Latin NCAP, and through major financial support to the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety. Bloomberg Philanthropies is the other major donor to the work of Global NCAP.

NCAP crash test results published in May 2017 showed that major manufacturers are still failing to meet their moral obligations to ensure safety for their consumer. Cars produced by Renault, GM and Kia for the Indian and Latin American markets all scored zero stars. In the second set of #SaferCarsForIndia results for 2017, Global NCAP released the ratings for crash tests conducted on the Renault Duster in its basic version without airbags and also, at the request of the manufacturer, in the version with an optional driver airbag.

The Duster, which is sold without airbags in its basic version, recorded a disappointing zero stars for adult occupant protection. The crash test showed that due to the lack of airbags the driver injuries would have been unacceptably high. The Duster also scored 2 stars for rear seat child occupant protection.
Following the test Renault asked Global NCAP to test a version of the Duster which included a single driver airbag. This increased the score to 3 stars for adult occupant protection, child protection remained the same at 2 stars.

Global NCAP decided to further investigate the Duster as a single airbag version was tested by Latin NCAP in 2015 where it scored 4 stars. It was found that the
Indian Duster airbag was smaller than that of the Latin American Duster. The difference in airbag size brings corresponding differences in protection. With the Indian Duster the head of the driver did not contact the airbag in the centre as it should, exposing the head to impact on the steering wheel and therefore more risk of injuries.

In Latin America, Latin NCAP released test results in May with zero stars for both the Kia Rio Sedan and Chevrolet Onix. The Chevrolet Onix is the best-selling car in Brazil and performed particularly badly in side impact protection, while the Rio offered the worst safety performance result in adult occupant protection compared to any other NCAP programme where it has been tested.

Confronted with results like this, car makers often claim that they are meeting local regulatory requirements and providing safety at a level the local market can afford. Yet other car manufacturers are showing up these excuses as false. For example, Latin NCAP results published in March gave top ‘five star’ scores to the VW Golf VII and the Seat Ateca, which is offered as standard in Latin America with 7 airbags, ESC and pedestrian protection.

Responding to these results, María Fernanda Rodríguez, Latin NCAP President said: “This is the first time since the latest protocol established in 2016 that we have good results in our region. Perhaps for the NCAPs from other regions, for example those where UN regulations are mandatory, this is quite normal, but for us it is something extraordinary. As someone who has dedicated almost all my life to promoting programs and actions that improve the quality of life of children in Latin America, today I feel happy. I am anxiously awaiting the governments to understand that it is totally feasible to require manufacturers of all brands to meet UN safety standards. Only by this we will be able to reduce the scandalous numbers of the dead and injured in our countries”.

Spurred by high profile crash results like these, and in the absence of fast action by many governments to introduce tough vehicle regulation into national law, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt has challenged car manufacturers to meet their obligations to ensure at least minimum global UN vehicle standards are being met through a voluntary agreement, in a concerted effort to achieve the road safety target for the Sustainable Development Goals.

This call is endorsed by WHO Global Ambassador for NCDs, Michael Bloomberg, whose own philanthropy supports Global NCAP. In an Op-Ed published in early June, Mr Bloomberg says: “What can be done? Automakers should make voluntary commitments that all of their cars swiftly reach or exceed the safety standards adopted by the United Nations. Cars sold in the U.S., most of Europe, Japan, Korea and Australia already meet these or equivalent national standards, but not those sold in most of the rest of the world. At the same time, governments should create and enforce better vehicle safety standards. And raising consumer awareness through independent crash-test programs, like the one in Latin America, would help more consumers make informed choices.”

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, FIA Foundation Chairman, said: “Car makers who fail to protect their customers with even the most basic UN safety protection standards are running out of time and excuses. They are being exposed by those of their competitors who are investing in safety for developing auto markets, and by governments that are recognising the need for regulation. The recent approval by the Indian Parliament’s lower house of new legislation which will mandate minimum UN standards for all vehicles in production by October 2018, is a sign of these changing times. The debate in India has been spurred, at least in part, by Global NCAP’s highly publicised car crash tests, and we at the FIA Foundation are proud of the role our funding is playing in supporting this campaign, as well as enabling the efforts of UN Special Envoy Jean Todt to encourage an industry Voluntary Agreement.”

Read more about the FIA Foundation’s advocacy and philanthropic support for global road safety