Crash test regime’s score buy-in will continue

Release of latest crash testing scores turns spotlight on ANCAP.


EXPECT the agency delivering safety ratings for cars sold here to continue focusing on crash testing mainstream models and to adopt, in respect to premium product, results from Europe.

In delivering verdict on two latest Alfa Romeo models and a Citroen, the New Zealand agency that speaks for the Australasia New Car Assessment Programme, which is funded in part by the NZ taxpayer, has also voiced expectation that more results will source from European NCAP.

Stella Stocks, general manager motoring services for the Automobile Association, has acknowledged the five star scores given the four-cylinder editions of Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio – the first a sedan that has been on sale here for a year and the other a sports utility soon to launch - and the four score given the C3, a Citroen city car, did not result from tests conducted in Melbourne.

“The ANCAP scores provided for Giulia, Stelvio and C3 are based on Euro NCAP test results rather than those tests being carried out in Australia,” she said.

This practice dated back to 1999 but would become more frequent because, as of January 1, the ANCAP and ENCAP testing regimes were to common protocols and policies “which will allow a far greater number of ANCAP safety ratings to be published for Australian and New Zealand consumers.”


The policy of using a sister body’s results might seem to undermine ANCAP’s ongoing relevance.

The organisation’s role has been under question since the Australian carmaking industry completely closed down last October, with final player Holden shutting its Commodore assembly line in Adelaide.

However, it seems clear Melbourne-based ANCAP’s crash test programme will continue. The Australian Government has increased its funding input, so the annual budget has been increased.

However, the operation is still hampered by budget realities; it relies on brands to donate or subsidise products it wants to test and, if buying directly itself, tends to limit its spend to mainstream models.

This practice was highlighted in a media meet last week when ANCAP chief executive James Goodwin was taken to task for his organisation having twice testing the Kia Picanto and Holden Commodore, while having never acquired more premium offerings such as the BMW X5 or Porsche Macan to assess.

The Commodore test is relevant as, until ANCAP bought two cars (Holden having declined to supply stock) it had resorted to applying a Euro NCAP score derived from a version of the closely related Opel Insignia not replicated by Holden.

Goodwin admitted to the GoAuto website that without manufacturer support the ANCAP budget could not extend to purchasing the most expensive vehicles, however he denied that elitism was involved in the testing criteria and insisted that 95 percent of current vehicles on the market have an ANCAP rating.

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Goodwin said a stronger budget would make a difference but, like Stocks, he was confident that the alignment with Euro NCAP would be a plus.

Said Stocks about ANCAP: “ANCAP continues to remain relevant as it can publish information specific to Australian and NZ vehicles as well as continue to crash test vehicles itself.”

ANCAP believes that it is providing representative value for Australian and New Zealand motorists because it tests the most popular, and therefore most relevant, new cars.

Says Stocks: “Choice of crash testing vehicles has always been made on popularity of vehicles hence the mainstream vehicles being crash tested over the more high-end vehicles. This approach has provided safety information to a greater number of vehicle purchasers/drivers.”

GoAuto points out that while it is not mandatory for Australian original equipment manufacturers to submit vehicles to ANCAP, in the 2016-17 financial year 28 tests were funded by brands (worth $A1.02 million) while 31 were funded by ANCAP at a taxpayer-funded $708,477 total cost. Meanwhile Euro NCAP added 193 tests worth $6.41m that were then appropriated for Australia and New Zealand.

What ANCAP doesn’t do, of course, is judge the crash worthiness of used import cars. That means models that have not been represented as new products in Australia escape scrutiny.

Ex-Japan used cars annually achieve similar registrations counts as new stock and many will, at best, likely only have Japanese domestic crash test ratings, based on a test quite different to ANCAP’s.

ANCAP, meantime, says the Giulia and Stelvio performed well across the crash tests, notably achieving the equal highest scores to date - 98 percent and 97 percent respectively - for adult occupation protection. The scores are nonetheless relevant only in regard to the four-cylinder petrol and diesel editions, not the V6 flagship which is likely to be more popular in New Zealand. The Giulia score also bypasses the V6 model.

ANCAP was critical of the C3’s poor performance in pedestrian safety tests. The Citroen received a score of just 59 per cent for pedestrian safety, as a result of its inability to actively detect and prevent pedestrian contact combined with head injury risk. The suggestion is that the car would have done better if it had autonomous emergency braking as standard, as the Alfa Romeo models do.

Said Stocks: “Safety standards are rising, and it’s no longer the case that having just a few basic safety features will satisfy consumers.”

It is optional for New Zealand models of the Citroen C3 built after March 2018 to have AEB systems, while none built before March 2018 have AEB. The vehicle’s AEB was not tested as a part of ANCAP’s crash tests.