Monday, July 4, 2016

Yes, there is such a thing as a zero-star rated car.

In more well-off countries, we're used to seeing cars with 4- and 5-star crash ratings. We're used to airbags and seatbelts and (not including idiots and Trump voters) we accept and understand that these make cars safer. Manufacturers have made amazing advances in crash structures to the point where the most common car crashes are very survivable nowadays.
However the same cannot be said for emerging markets like India, where large, well-established global car manufacturers are selling vehicles that are - without being dramatic - death traps.
Global-NCAP and ADAC (European safety firms) recently performed a series of very normal crash tests on the Renault Kwid, Suzuki Celerio, Suzuki Eeco, Hyundai Eon and Mahindra Scorpio. These were normal tests - offset front crash test, head-on crash tests etc. The sorts of things we're all used to seeing. Every one of those five cars received zero star crash rating, essentially meaning that at 30mph, the car will kill all it's occupants.
When you watch the videos, it's horrifying to see global manufacturers producing cars that suffer such catastrophic failures. In one case (the Renault Kwid) the A-pillar fails so spectacularly that the force of the crash is transmitted all the way to the rear of the C-pillar behind the back seats. Out of a possible 17 points for adult survivability, this vehicle stars a flat 0.0.

These videos illustrate the failure of conscience of modern corporations. All these manufacturers are very capable of manufacturing cars with airbags, crash structures and safety cells. Yet because India is a largely unregulated market, they choose instead to use that market as the source of massive profit by manufacturing cheap-to-build cars, stripped of even the most basic safety features. Obviously it costs less to build such a car, so rather than do the right thing - which would be to value human life and strive to ensure their products meet even the most basic UN crash test requirements - these companies instead take advantage of markets like India, Mexico and Indonesia where drivers are ill-educated about crashes, and where there are no regulations covering even the most basic crashworthiness of vehicles.
Renault, Hyundai and the others should be ashamed of these vehicles. They could have used emerging markets as an opportunity to be global corporate pillars but instead, as always, they pander to the shareholders and the quarterly bottom line.
Things will change next year though - in India at least, front- and side-impact testing will be mandated for all new vehicles meaning Renault, Hyundai and Suzuki will have to find another emerging market with expendable drivers to fleece.
WSJ - Why Some Of India's Best Selling Cars Fail Basic Safety Tests