Crash tests for SA cars: The NCAP safety conundrum

<i>Image: Twitter</i>
<i>Image: Twitter</i>

UPDATE: We've included full crash test results for all five cars tested by the Global NCAP.

Cape Town - If we know better, why don’t we buy smarter?

Credit must be bestowed where it is due and in collaboration the AA and Global NCAP have finally given South Africans some reference for car safety. 

Collins Khumalo, CEO of the AA, said: "#SaferCarsForAfrica is critical to educate the public about vehicle safety. The crash test results will empower road users to make informed decisions."

The problem is, will those results make any difference, whatsoever?

WATCH: 5 popular SA cars crash tested - Polo Vivo, Etios and more

The cars under evaluation are value hatchbacks, the calibre of vehicle privileged parents might buy for their children as a first car, or first-time buyers are considering. The list tallies some of South Africa’s best-selling cars (Toyota Etios, VW Vivo, Datsun Go, Renault Sandero) and an outlier in the form of Chery’s QQ3. 

Mandated NCAP testing delivered results that will not surprise those familiar with the automotive industry. Chery’s QQ3 was a complete failure, featuring no airbags and scoring zero in both adult and child occupant safety. Datsun’s Go+ achieved slightly better, it rated one star (of out five) for adult safety but zero for child safety. 

What do you think of the Global NCAP results for SA? Will the results affect your next vehicle purchase? Email us

VW’s Polo Vivo finished third out of the five cars evaluated, scoring three out of five stars for both adult and child safety. Renault’s Sandero scored three starts for adult safety, and four for child safety, finishing second, with Toyota’s Etios finishing first in the rating, by virtue of inverting the Sandero’s score: achieving four stars for adult occupant safety, and three for child protection. 

Buyers want crash safety ratings

According to the AA and Global NCAP, 93.81% of car buyers want crash safety ratings displayed on vehicles and dealership point of sale, to assist with informing potential owners of their risk. That’s a interesting claim, and one would be curious to know the research methodology used and sample group harvested, to generate that 93.81% claim. 

Firstly, it would be nearly inconceivable that a new car buyer, entering a dealership, did not do any preliminary online research into the car they are interested in viewing. That online research would include incidental or deliberate navigation or data availability regarding crash safety. 

Secondly, crash safety ratings for entry-level vehicles, given sales data, are not as important in the South African market. The sales data clearly contradicts the claim that 93.81% of buyers feel the need to know what the NCAP rating of any car they are interested in purchasing is; If it did, how does one explain Datsun selling 200 Go+ and 528 Go units last month? 

Potentially deadly structural engineering discrepancies with the Datsun Go have been known since its launch in late 2014, but it’s affordability has sustained sales momentum. Crash safety awareness is not sufficient decision-making criteria to deter buyers from cars which score terribly in NCAP tests. If it was, Datsun would have failed in South Africa; instead, it does excellent sales numbers each month. 

Current Aston Martin boss, Andy Palmer, was vilified for his quote about Go’s safety logic when still a senior executive at Nissan: "We are talking about cars built to transport people who would otherwise be four or five-up on a motorcycle. These people today can’t afford more, and if we fit safety systems we will drive the prices up and they’ll choose the motorbike again. A car with a body and individual seats is much safer than a bike."

In the South African context, is being in your own Go that much safer than traveling in a fully loaded taxi? These are the questions that first-time buyers are confronted with. First-time buyers are unlikely to risk purchasing a safer previously owned car with 40- or 50 000km on the clock, preferring the status of owning ‘new’. 

The campaign for NCAP safety awareness could have a negligible impact in a market which is making Rand-decisions calculated in thousands, not tens of thousands. The difference in price between Go and the three cars which finished well ahead of it in the NCAP ratings, tells you all one needs to know.    

Global NCAP crash test results: 

Toyota Etios 4/5

Volkswagen Polo Vivo: 3/5

Renault Sandero 3/5

Datsun GO+ 1/5

Chery QQ3 - 0/5

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