SA bakkie’s crash-test fail ‘insults Africans’

A complete disdain for African motorists for the sake of profit.

This is the cutting view of Automobile Association of SA chief executive Willem Groenewald following a shocking crash test that proved an SA-made bakkie’s safety performance is vastly inferior to that of a five-year-old European version of the vehicle.

The renowned car-safety organisation Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) has for years been calling out motor manufacturers on their double standards on car safety levels – excellent in most countries, but terrible in SA – and now it has done a crash test to prove it.

In the test, the SA-made Nissan NP300 bakkie, marketed as “African tough”, came off looking rather more timid.

And the results, Groenewald said, are “extremely worrying and point to a major deficiency in the quality of vehicles available in Africa”.

“We have for a long time been concerned that vehicles available in Africa are inferior to those in other markets, such as Europe and Asia, and these results seem to confirm that concern,” he said.

“What this car-to-car crash also demonstrates is a complete disdain for African vehicle consumers and their safety at the expense of profit.

“It also again highlights the need for stricter regulation of standards and tougher controls in terms of allowing these inferior vehicles on to African roads.”

In the first crash test of its kind, the London-based Global NCAP crashed the new SA-built Nissan NP300 Hardbody into a five-year-old Nissan NP300, with 75,000km on the clock and purchased in Scotland.

The test took place at a facility outside Munich, Germany, in November 2019.

The 2015 European car is equipped with the lifesaving crash-avoidance anti-skid system, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), but the new African version is not.

The difference in crashworthiness is extraordinary ... A new car in Africa is not necessarily a safer car.
David Ward, Global NCAP

When the flying debris of the two wrecks had settled after their 56km/h collision, and the crash test dummies’ data were analysed, Global NCAP’s engineers concluded the driver in the Nissan built at the manufacturer’s Pretoria plant for African markets would most likely have sustained fatal injuries.

The driver of the equivalent secondhand European model would probably have walked away from the crash.

Launched to coincide with this week’s Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Sweden, both crashed vehicles will be on public display as part of the “People’s Exhibition” in Stockholm Central Railway Station, opposite the conference venue.

“This is a very dramatic car-to-car crash test, which uniquely illustrates the double-standard in vehicle safety performance between models sold in Europe and those sold in Africa,” said David Ward, CEO and president of Global NCAP.

“The difference in crashworthiness is extraordinary.”

Global NCAP is partnering the Global NGO Alliance for Road Safety in hosting the exhibition.

“A new car in Africa is not necessarily a safer car,” Ward said.

“Secondhand imported cars from regions with tougher regulatory requirements for safety and environmental performance can offer consumers much greater protection.”

In 2018 … the bakkie was crashed into a barrier, receiving a zero-star safety rating for the front passengers.

Never one to mince his words, Ward said the double standard demonstrated by Nissan with its NP300 “is utterly unacceptable”.

This is not the first time Global NCAP has bought a new NP300 in SA and sent it to the Munich testing facility to crash-test it.

In 2018, as part of the organisation’s #SaferCarsForAfrica campaign, with partner the AA, the bakkie was crashed into a barrier, receiving a zero-star safety rating for the front passengers.

The vehicle structure collapsed and was found to be unstable.

In contrast, when the European Nissan Navara NP300 was tested by Euro NCAP in 2015, it achieved a four-star rating for adult passengers in front.

Interviewed shortly after the bakkie-on-bakkie crash, Global NCAP’s secretary-general, Alejandro Furas, said: “If you take a look at the new [South African] NP300 vehicle’s body, it’s completely collapsed and the steering wheel is compressing the driver.

“It would be very hard for rescuers to get the driver out of the car. It’s being sold as a hardbody, with airbags, giving consumers the impression that it is a robust, safe car, but from what we can see now [after the crash test], it doesn’t look like it.”

The double-standards issue is not confined to Nissan, according to Global NCAP.

Speaking in November 2018 at a joint Global NCAP/AA press conference to reveal the safety ratings of four SA vehicles which were crash-tested in a Munich facility a few months earlier, Furas said most motor manufacturers deliberately chose to under-spec some of their models in terms of safety features in African and other “developing” markets.

Nissan SA responded on Tuesday: “Nissan’s number one priority is the safety of its customers. We are committed to the highest safety standards in every single market where we operate, without exception. The locally produced NP300 Hardbody meets all safety regulations within Africa, where it has built a strong reputation over many years for reliability and customer satisfaction. Nissan continues to introduce advanced safety technologies and features into our global product range, including Africa, and we actively encourage and support  advancements in safety regulations and requirements for the benefit of our customers.”


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