ANCAP under fire: Safety firm slammed over zero-star test

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Words: Matthew Hansen
3 Mar 2021

One of this week’s biggest stories was yesterday’s announcement that the Mitsubishi Express van had been given a zero-star safety rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

At almost the exact same time as the announcement, Australia’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) — a body that represents Australia's car brands — released a statement of its own in direct response to the test, calling into question ANCAP’s practices and whether its use of tax-payer funding is appropriate.

Read more: Mitsubishi Express van scores zero-star ANCAP safety rating

“Euro NCAP and ANCAP claim they are effectively harmonised, however, this is not reflected in ANCAP’s actions. Alignment with global standards is the best way of ensuring Australians can have the highest vehicle design standards at the lowest possible prices,” said FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber.

“Why is ANCAP spending potentially up to $500,000, which includes taxpayer dollars, to undertake a test on a six-year-old vehicle that has already been assessed by its sister organisation Euro NCAP in 2015?”

Weber here is referring to the Express’ sister vehicle, the Renault Trafic. The Trafic currently holds a three-star Euro NCAP safety rating, having been given the rating in 2015. According to reports, the two vehicles are identical in construction and safety spec, with badging and minor design details being among the few differences.

Both Euro NCAP and ANCAP have stepped up how tough it marks vehicle safety in recent years, placing additional weight on emerging technologies — most notably active safety tools like autonomous emergency braking. The more stringent testing has seen plenty of press about the tweaks, including plenty of coverage of how the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50’s 2020 five-star safety ratings trump the five-star ratings handed out to rival utes in previous years.

It’s worth noting that ANCAP has yet to test the Trafic in any capacity. Euro NCAP, meanwhile, has given both the Trafic and Master ‘Not Recommended’ ratings in its review of the technologies each has been fitted with. Commercial vans are an ongoing subject of testing for both ANCAP and NCAP, having previously been skipped over almost entirely.

Despite the frequent coverage around changing processes, Weber contends that car buyers get a “confused” message when they see two somewhat identical cars hold different ratings from the two conjoined safety groups.

“It makes no sense, can send a confused message to Australian car buyers and is not the best use of taxpayer funds,” Weber added. “The Australian vehicle buyer will understandably be confused at the two different ratings for essentially the same vehicle. It serves no purpose for the customer and it serves no purpose to the industry

“Safe vehicles on our roads must be a priority for everyone in our industry, including ANCAP. Surely, there is no debating that point. Rather than seeking a headline, ANCAP would better serve the Australian public by seeking a harmonised adoption of the test and measurement protocols as well as consumer messaging. This ensures consistency and clarity for everyone concerned.”

There are points in both directions. Euro NCAP can’t be expected to perform a crash test on the Express given the model isn’t widely sold in the region. And Europe’s ongoing issues and severe Covid-19 lockdowns may be preventing it from testing as frequently as it would like. But, there’s no doubt that the way the two groups test vans are inconsistent.

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