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Utes still lag behind cars on safety

26 MARCH, 2008

CRASH-test results by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) reveal that utility vehicles are still lagging behind passenger cars on occupant safety.

ANCAP’s release today of safety ratings for the Holden Commodore ute, Mazda BT50 4x4, Nissan Navara D40 4x4 and the Mahindra Pik-up show that only the Commodore comes close to passenger car safety.

The Commodore rated four out of a possible five stars and the Mazda BT50 three stars, while the Nissan Navara and the Mahindra Pik-up rated three stars and two stars respectively under ANCAP’s sister program, EuroNCAP.

ANCAP Victorian partners, RACV, VicRoads and the TAC, said despite ANCAP crash-test results showing passenger cars were providing very good levels of protection for occupants, ‘utes’ — the vehicles that thousands use everyday for work — showed much room for improvement.

“In Victoria alone, about 30,000 new utes were sold last year, but unlike some recently crash-tested passenger cars, no ute has yet achieved a five-star ANCAP rating,” the ANCAP partners said.

However, the ANCAP Victorian partners said the Commodore ute’s crash-test results were a sign that manufacturers could design and build for occupant protection.

Fitted as standard, the Commodore ute’s safety features included anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

“We are seeing more and more four and five-star vehicles on the Australian market these days, and we would expect that a utility vehicle should earn a five-star rating in the near future,” the ANCAP partners said.

“Manufacturers are building key safety technologies as standard features in many of their models, and while some utes are definitely safer than they were five years ago, more needs to be done.

“Many are lacking in basic occupant protection, which is an occupational health and safety concern for drivers of these vehicles. Unfortunately, these vehicles are also often purchased for family use.”

The Mazda BT50 and the Ford Ranger are based on the same design and are expected to have similar crashworthiness. The frontal offset crash by ANCAP left the passenger compartment severely deformed, with the steering column, dashboard components and park brake lever presenting as potential sources of injury. The Mazda only gained a three-star rating.

Following a poor result from EuroNCAP, Nissan upgraded the airbag performance of the Navara ute and a retest was conducted.

Nissan Australia advises that the latest three-star rating from EuroNCAP applies to airbag-equipped models on sale in Australia, and that a service campaign is underway to upgrade the airbag software of models already in service.

Despite the improved performance, there is still a high risk of serious injury with the retested vehicle. Also of concern, Australian models of the Navara are available without a driver airbag and could be expected to perform worse than the model tested in Europe, where airbags are standard.

The Mahindra Pik-Up, which only rated two stars, has minimal safety features and, despite the dual cab configuration that is popular with families, does not include top tether anchorages for child restraints. Under Australian regulations these are optional on this style of vehicle, which can be classified as commercial.

Mahindra has advised ANCAP it will be providing driver and passenger airbags in 2008 models and the anchorages will be a standard design feature from 2009.

ANCAP today also released results of four five-star vehicles — the Subaru Forester, Fiat 500 (with ESC), Volvo V70, Peugeot 308 XSE/XTE (with knee airbags and ESC).

The same models of the Fiat 500 (without ESC) and Peugeot 308 (without knee airbags and ESC) scored four stars, as did the BMW X3.

The Hyundai Elantra — which comes with or without curtain airbags — scored three stars. The model with curtain airbags provided greater protection.

ANCAP crash tests new vehicles, awards them a star rating for safety and publicises the results to the motoring public.

ANCAP is supported by all Australian and New Zealand motoring clubs, all Australian state governments, the New Zealand government and the FIA Foundation.

Since 1 January 2008, vehicles must have ESC to gain a five star ANCAP rating.

Find out more at ancap.com.au

Media Contacts:     TAC               Anna Chalko               9664 6862

                            RACV             Denis Brown               9790 2572

                            VicRoads        Mary Fall                    9854 2160

 


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