Global NCAP and the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) invited media to their head offices opposite the Kyalami track in Midrand recently to observe the fourth round of #SaferCarsForAfrica crash tests from Munich, Germany. via livestream. The objective of the live feed was to highlight the level of safety in SA’s new vehicle market offerings.
In South Africa, a large portion of the consumer’s time is spent weighing the value vs price proposition when buying any new vehicle. The myriad of extra’s available in today’s vehicle might simply be enough to divert most drivers’ attention from what really should be their main worry: the crash test rating of a vehicle. That’s why the AA has made it their long-term objective to evaluate the safety of SA’s new car market so that the public can make an informed decision when purchasing a new vehicle.
For over 20 years the AA has crash tested three popular consumer choices of new vehicles (in a mystery shopper fashion) to gauge a better understanding of whether the vehicles are meeting the minimum crash testing safety standards. Their position on purchasing a vehicle is that it would be safer for the public to rather consider a secondhand rental vehicle with three-four star crash test rating than a new vehicle which could have a one-star rating. ‘Safety first’ has been the association’s watchwords as they find manufacturers sometimes not meeting their duty of care with regards to the level of safety in some new vehicles sold, and that the bare minimum safety features must be included on the sale of a new vehicle.
They are also going as far as enforcing a safety rating sticker which should be visible on all new vehicles sold, so that the owner can make an informed decision on the safety of a new car come purchase time.
This year the three vehicles in question for their annual crash testing were the single cab GWM Steed 5 bakkie, the Haval H1 SUV and the Renault Kwid. The absolute base model of each manufacturer was purchased and manufacturers notified of the crash test date and were invited to participate to ensure correct crash test protocol is kept for better data transparency.
Vehicles are then shipped to the German Automobile Association’s crash testing facility based near Munich, Germany. The crash and emission testing facility conducts crash tests along its 74-metre pulling track which is rigged with eight high-speed video and still cameras. Cameras are also situated inside the test vehicle to measure the effects on their bravest staff members: the ‘crash test dummies’ (who each have their own names as they are the stars of of each and every show).
Tests depending on the vehicle comprise two adults in the front seat with a 1.5-year-old toddler along with a three-year-old child dummy in the rear. Built with the exact same bone structure and weight distribution as a 73kg human with 30 censors located around the body measuring forces of impact and even bone deflection, it’s easy to see why the cost of an average dummy is around 5,3 million rand – thanks to the vitally important data they provide.
Once the dummies are measured up and strategically placed, last minute laser measurements taken to ensure uniformity with previous tests. All fluids are then removed from the car and sticky rulers added to the outside of the vehicle to measure the distance of the dummies head from the steering wheel on collision. This whole procedure (to get the vehicle ready for a crash test) takes over 24 hours of preparation with multiple measurements being made and every step of the way recorded.
The crash barrier, called the ‘crash box’, is made up of honeycomb-shaped aluminium rods that are then positioned to overlap 40 percent of the front of the vehicle on the driver’s side.
A 40mm target and nail is all they use to guide the vehicle down the track into its target with a deviation from the target set at just 20mm, if they deviate by more than 20mm the crash test is aborted. Tests are run at 64 km/h along the acceleration line (red line) via a pulling cable from a hydraulic pulling system which boasts a 3.5-ton tugging power. With all this in place, the final process of painting the dummies, to see impact areas on the car is done and the car positioned for its final voyage.
The three models tested, the Steed 5 pick up from Great Wall, the Haval H1 five door SUV and the Kwid five door compact from Renault, all gave serious cause for concern with poor levels of adult and child protection. Alarmingly the zero-rated Great Wall Steed 5 demonstrated a high probability of life threatening injury.
Alejandro Furas, Global NCAP Secretary General said, “Another zero-star rated ‘Bakkie’ gives us very serious cause for concern in our latest crash test results for Africa. The potential for life threatening injury in the Steed 5 follows the zero-star performance of the Nissan Hardbody pick up. The contrast between the marketing claims for such vehicles and the reality of their poor safety performance could not be more ever-present.”
David Ward, Towards Zero Foundation President said, “This is a worrying set of results for the safety of both adult and child occupants in these popular African cars. Our second #SaferCarsforAfrica zero rating in the ‘Bakkie” category, with the high probability of life-threatening injuries, should be ringing alarm bells for any consumer considering the purchase of a Steed 5 pick up.
“From our global perspective, with successful crash test programmes in India and Latin America, we can track the varying safety equipment specifications for cars manufactured in one market and sold in others. It’s therefore surprising to note that the Renault Kwid developed for Latin America, based on the original Indian version, has a better adult and child occupant protection performance, includes standard ISOFIX anchorages as well as dual front and side airbags.”
Willem Groenewald, AA South Africa CEO said, “I concur with both Ale and David that these results are worrisome and a cause for concern. Since the #SaferCarsforAfrica programme’s first results were launched in 2017 we’ve been calling for an improvement in the safety standards set by government. These results again confirm the urgent need for this to happen; we simply cannot have unsafe cars on our roads anymore.
“We have spoken to the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards about standards and although the evidence is clear, we are eager to see movement in this regard. Action is needed – and needed right now because it’s about protecting South African citizens.”