24 Jul 2013
SEAT New Leon’s first ever five-star safety rating offers hope to car buyers in Latin America

Many Best-Selling Global Brands Continue To Provide Sub-Standard Safety Protection

Latin NCAP has awarded its first ever five-star safety rating for adult occupant protection to the SEAT New Leon. Latin NCAP also welcomed the four-star rating for the Suzuki Celerio city car’s adult occupant protection. The results show that manufacturers can produce small cars for the region with stable structures and good protection.

In contrast to these positive results Latin NCAP’s latest tests also reveal that many of the best-selling models by global brands still offer only zero-star levels of protection which would fail to meet even basic global safety standards. The worst performing cars in the recent round of crash tests from Latin NCAP were the Nissan Tsuru (Sentra B13), Renault Clio Mio, Suzuki Alto K10 and Chevrolet Agile. All scored just zero stars.

This is very disappointing and partly due to the lack of airbags as standard, but the real problem is the substandard safety of their body structures,” said Global NCAP’s Technical Director Alejandro Furas. “Body structures that collapse onto the people inside can have fatal or life-threatening consequences in real-world crashes. These zero rated cars are built by companies that produce good, safe five star cars and at affordable prices for buyers in other parts of the world. Now is the time for car buyers in Latin America to be able to choose five star models that exceed global safety standards

The good news is that with the SEAT New Leon receiving our first five-star safety rating for the adult safety, Latin America finally has a family car that gives consumers the protection they should expect from a new vehicle,” said Furas. “With so many of the most popular models failing our tests with sub-standard crash structures and airbags, we urge consumers to check the car’s safety rating on www.latinncap.com/en/ before they buy.

The Latest Results

Latin NCAP’s first ever five-star rating in adult safety will reassure car buyers that the SEAT New Leon is a truly global model that offers almost identical protection to the European version. The crash structure is robust and the airbags and seatbelts protect occupants well in front and side impact collisions. The New Leon fits six airbags, ABS and seatbelt reminders as standard and all performed well in the assessment. Only the knee airbags, standard in Europe, and side rear airbags are sold as an option. This model achieved a four star rating for child protection; the ISOFIX system and the anchorages in the CRS (both comply with UN regulations) played a key role.

Despite its compact size, the Suzuki Celerio city car comfortably achieved its four-star rating for adult occupant protection. The car’s two-star safety rating for child occupant protection is due mainly to the lack of ISOFIX compatible seats for the car. The Celerio has ISOFIX attachment points but Suzuki could not recommend an ISOFIX child seat for the test, securing its child restraints with the seatbelts instead. As a result, excessive forward movement of the child dummy behind the driver could not be prevented during the crash test and its head came into contact with the back of the front seat.

The Nissan Tsuru (Sentra B13) provided one of the most disturbing videos of the latest tests with the vehicle structure coming close to total collapse. This and the excessive forces recorded by the dummies meant that the car could only receive a zero-star rating. As the car fits only two-point seatbelts instead of conventional three-point seatbelts in the rear, it is impossible to fit a child seat properly following Latin NCAP criteria. Latin NCAP believes that as a result the Tsuru (Sentra B13) is not properly equipped to transport children safely.

The Renault Clio Mio’s structure proved unstable in the crash tests and the unacceptably high forces on the dummies’ heads meant that it scored zero stars and zero points. Child occupant safety was also problematic. Poor compatibility for the child seat and poor performance in the dynamic tests led to a poor two-star rating.

The Suzuki Alto K10 received a zero-star adult occupant safety rating because of its unstable vehicle structure and the high forces placed on the dummies which pose an unacceptably high risk of death or injury. Although the vehicle achieved a three-star rating for child occupant safety, this was achieved mainly because the front row of seats absorbed so much of the crash energy.

The Chevrolet Agile received a zero-star safety rating as well. The passenger dummies recorded high forces during the crash test and the vehicle structure proved unstable, with the driver´s footwell area presenting ruptures which expose the driver’s feet. The forces on the front occupant’s head (driver) were unacceptably high. Child occupant protection was given a poor two-star safety rating.

Latin NCAP’s tougher tests

This year Latin NCAP increased the stringency of its test procedures. The scoring system penalizes cars when dummies experience loadings that suggest fatal injuries are likely. A five-star car must also pass the UN’s Regulation 95 side impact test and provide ABS and front seat belt reminders as standard.

Signs Of Progress

Latin NCAP is also pleased with the continuing signs of constructive dialogue with car manufacturers. The willingness of some leading manufacturers to change their production and bring safer models to the market is very welcome and demonstrates the benefits of Latin NCAP’s efforts to raise consumer awareness of the safety performance of cars being sold in the region.

An issue that is a cause for concern to Latin NCAP is the lack of UN regulations for vehicle safety in the region, and the conformity of production that models should maintain from their original approval for sale and the remaining period they are sold in the region’s markets. This requires an assessment by independent laboratories which are currently not available in Latin America.

The lack of UN based vehicle safety standards across Latin America and the absence of independent vehicle testing laboratories make it hard for governments to be sure that all manufacturers will maintain the quality of the vehicles being sold in their markets. Latin NCAP recommends a discussion with policy-makers on this issue especially in those vehicle production leading countries of the region. Latin NCAP welcomes the Brazilian government’s announced plans for its own crash test facility and encourages its full independence.

Child Occupant Safety

The use of the ISOFIX child restraint system plays a significant role in reducing the probability of wrong installation and generally improves the dynamic performance. Latin NCAP recommends ISOFIX and encourages all governments, car makers and suppliers in the region to support ISOFIX CRS on the basis of the UN’s R44 regulation and make mandatory the ISOFIX anchorages in vehicles according to UN Regulations.

Latin NCAP Stakeholder Opinions

Max Mosley, Global NCAP Chairman: “Congratulations to SEAT on being the first manufacturer with a five star car in Latin America. Let’s hope that this is the first of many more five star cars in the region. Much less welcome are the zero star cars of Chevrolet, Nissan, Renault, and Suzuki. It’s very disappointing to see well established manufacturers such as these producing sub-standard cars that would fail the United Nation’s minimum frontal crash test regulation.”

Carlos Macaya, FIA Foundation Trustee: “This is a great result for car safety in Latin America. SEAT has shown that it is possible to achieve five star levels of safety here in Latin America as well as in Europe and the USA. Latin NCAP has also proved its ability to accelerate the introduction of safer models to the region. Now other manufacturers should follow SEAT’s great example and join Latin NCAP’s five star safety club.”

María Fernanda Rodríguez, Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez President: “I really have mixed feelings about these results. As the President of the Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, an organization that has been working for more than 12 years for the improvement of children’s quality of life, I am very worried to see that child occupant safety is always relegated. We need to understand that children are the most vulnerable users and that they represent our future. It is great disappointment to see 0, 1, and 2-star ratings for child occupant safety, and four 0-star vehicles for adult occupant protection. We all know, however, how to improve and change this situation: with better policies, efficient controls, and information for all.”

Guido Adriaenssens, International Consumer Research & Testing Chief Executive Officer: “The consumer organizations in Latin America welcome the first car scoring the maximum five stars on adult occupant protection: the Seat New Leon. It is however very disappointing that of the five other cars tested only the Suzuki Celerio offers adequate protection. The remaining four put consumers at risk when involved in a crash. The disastrous results in the frontal crash indicate high risks on serious or even fatal injuries, leading to an all time low record of 0 [zero] star scores! An astonishing finding was also that the Nissan Tsuru (Sentra B13) is not able to accommodate proper child seats in the back of the car, making safe transport of children impossible. ICRT and Latin NCAP call manufacturers to bring these models, that in many cases have been developed decades ago, up to an acceptable safety level or replace them with modern, state of the art products. Two car models in this batch show that this is a reasonable demand.”

Jorge Tomasi, FIA IV Region President and Uruguayan Automobile Club President: “Latin NCAP has proven the effectiveness of this kind of programme even in markets where technical requirements for vehicles are very low. Since 2010 when Latin NCAP was introduced, most manufacturers started considering Latin NCAP’s tests as a reference for the development of their new models for the region. Other manufacturers have implemented changes in production, such as double frontal airbags as standard before their compulsory use in two very popular models. We have witnessed how other brands have developed 4-star models for the region’s most competitive segments. We hope this new stage, with more stringent protocols, promotes greater and faster improvement of safety measures in vehicles. It is evident that in order to achieve this, we need the region’s governments to take their safety requirements to the level required by the United Nations WP29”.

Alejandro Taddía, leading expert from the Inter-American Development Bank’s Transport Division: “For the Inter-American Development Bank, it’s very good news to see concrete evidence of the progress achieved by Latin NCAP. However, we have to keep working to ensure that all vehicles sold in Latin America meet safety standards similar to those in Europe or the United States. Our traffic death rate is still double that of more developed regions. That’s why the IDB will continue supporting Latin NCAP, to deepen the dialogue between governments, automakers and consumers on improving vehicle safety”.

About Latin NCAP

The Latin New Car Assessment Programme (Latin NCAP) was launched in 2010 as a three year pilot project to explore the potential contribution that a regional system of independent crashworthiness and safety rating can make to road safety in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC). Latin NCAP replicates similar programmes that have developed over the last thirty years in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, which have proved to be very effective in improving the safety of motor vehicles.

Latin NCAP contributes to the vehicle safety pillar of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020

The pilot project has been managed by a partnership consisting of the Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, the FIA Region IV, the FIA Foundation, Global NCAP and ICRT, counting on the support of the IDB. Since 2010, Latin NCAP has carried out three phases of crashworthiness testing and assessment of most of the top selling models available on the major markets of the LAC. Latin NCAP’s pilot project has been able to demonstrate that the programme can successfully stimulate the awareness of the public, governments and manufacturers to give more attention to vehicle safety issues.

Further information: www.latinncap.com
Press Contact: Carolina Pereira
+598 98268802