When ANCAP invites Australian journalists to witness a laboratory crash test you understand it’s going to be bad news – for the carmaker.
It’s a part of the means of positioning the Australasian Recent-Automobile Assessment Program (ANCAP) because the saviour for new-car safety in Australia.
There have been several embarrassing crash-test moments for carmakers over recent years within the careful sculpting of the ANCAP message.
That message? Only five-star cars, as judged by ANCAP, are protected enough for Australia and Australians.
But is that true? Does everyone need – and even want – a automobile that slows robotically to stop a possible collision with a cyclist, or overrules your decisions on cornering, or prevents you from changing lanes if onboard computers resolve the move is unsafe?
More importantly, can they afford a automobile like that?
The highest priority for nearly everyone seems to be keeping themselves, and their families, protected in a crash. Does that must mean a brand-new five-star automobile?
In the long run, five-star cars may also keep the doors operating for 2 minutes if the automobile falls into deep water. And who knows what comes after that?
The principles and regulations, as set by ANCAP, get tougher and tougher with the passage of time – and a world with zero deaths on our roads gets closer.
Yet all cars sold in Australia are considered protected by the authorities in Canberra. A Porsche 911 has never been tested or rated by ANCAP yet it continues to be on sale and highly desirable. Nobody thinks it’s unsafe.
Automobile corporations must meet the necessities for a protracted string of Australian Design Rules before they get approval to sell a vehicle in Australia.
Victoria has also acted alone on several road safety initiatives, starting with the primary mandatory use of seatbelts – from 1970 – anywhere on this planet.
When ANCAP began within the early Nineteen Nineties, as only the second organisation of its type on this planet, the bedrock was to offer transparent and independent safety results.
Automobile corporations had at all times done their very own safety development and testing, from computer simulations to full-scale crash tests, but none were prepared to share their results with automobile buyers.
Even Mercedes-Benz, which set the bar – very high – on safety, wouldn’t go into detail despite inviting journalists to look at its in-house test work and showing footage of the performance of rival brands in its comparative testing.
The early intent was clear but there was a split response as Renault and Subaru broke ranks with the silent majority to advertise their ANCAP scores.
“We didn’t need to kill our customers,” one retired Australian CEO recalled of his company’s support of ANCAP within the early days.
But safety was not at all times a priority at a time when airbags were relatively latest and most brands were reluctant to attempt to charge more for added protection.
When Toyota launched a then-new Camry with only a single airbag – for the motive force – the corporate’s marketing guru, Bob Miller, took a light-hearted approach to the choice.
“If the automobile dies, the passenger dies too,” Mr Miller joked in reply to a matter in regards to the decision.
He was being light-hearted, and no-one within the press pack reported his comment, nevertheless it was a mirrored image of the times.
So the creation of ANCAP was a landmark move and great for anyone who put safety on their list of latest automobile priorities – although consistent marketing research over greater than 20 years shows safety is just not as vital as value, or comfort, or more recently infotainment.
The assorted NCAP operations around the globe have at all times used a star rating, from zero to 5, to offer an overall rating and comparative scores, so a client could see how their potential purchase was rated overall, and in addition the way it was ranked against showroom rivals.
There was a scale, various results, and impartial and transparent information. But over time, ANCAP has turn out to be a binary system, almost yes-no. As an alternative of 0-1-2-3-4-5, the star rankings at the moment are considered all or nothing, zero or five.
ANCAP has also turn out to be about social engineering and virtue signalling.
So when you select a five-star automobile you’re person. Even when it’s an old automobile with a five-star rating from the distant past…
Automobile corporations are publicly shamed in the event that they don’t produce a five-star result and buyers are at all times steered to five-star cars – even when ANCAP’s own extensive database doesn’t alert people to the changes within the scoring systems and test processes over time. So a five-star automobile from the past could possibly be way down the size by the present measurement.
Many business buyers and government bodies have also been convinced by ANCAP that five-star cars needs to be mandatory as a part of their Occupational Health and Safety requirements.
The local operation has even taken a tougher stand than Euro NCAP, which does much of the heavy lifting on latest models and produces the scores from its on-the-ground testing. ANCAP publishes those scores and uses equivalent crash protocols. It does some crash testing in Australia, but nowhere near as much as Euro NCAP.
Yet a four-star ANCAP automobile might be described as “falling short” or “adequate” for Australia, while the exact same result – derived from the identical test – might be an “overall good performance” within the Euro NCAP results.
Taking a look at the background to Euro NCAP, its requirement for a four-star automobile is quoted as: “Overall good performance in crash protection and all-round; additional crash avoidance technology could also be present”.
Even a three-star result means “At the very least average occupant protection but not at all times equipped with the most recent crash avoidance features”.
But that approach is just not remotely mirrored in five-stars-or-nothing Australia.
Within the case of ANCAP, it now takes a 70 per cent rating within the Safety Assist category – which is generally about about computerised systems to avoid danger – to achieve a five-star rating. The bar can also be set at 70 per cent for Vulnerable Road User Protection, including pedestrians and cyclists.
So what’s ANCAP about and who does it serve? Is it now making a real difference, or simply driving forward by itself agenda?
“I don’t know what it’s doing with its money and time,” a former chief of ANCAP recently told CarExpert.
The answers look obvious and it’s a dangerous move because the sharp fringe of road safety is moving away from lots of the vulnerable people the ANCAP system was intended to assist and protect.
Not everyone can afford five-star ANCAP safety in 2023 and the price of achieving the highest rating is growing and being passed to consumers.
Renault-owned Dacia, which intends to launch in Australia in 2025, has already flagged a possible plan to accept a three-star ANCAP rating to carry the worth line on its value contenders.
Safety continues to be a high priority and protected cars needs to be praised, however the road toll in Australia is rising despite the safest cars ever seen on the country’s roads.
ANCAP clearly has a job, but has it overstepped its mandate?
At once, a five-star ANCAP rating is widely known and trumpeted, and anything less is mocked and criticised.
When the result is actually bad, then it’s time to call within the vultures of the press so that they can pick over the carcass.
This Article First Appeared At www.carexpert.com.au