European Imports Not Safe?

Yesterday I was writing about the Volvo Crash Test Laboratory in Sweden and arguing that Volvo and other European manufacturers are spending a great deal of time and resources developing safer cars.
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However word from Motoring journalist and safety advocate Clive Matthew Wilson suggest the importers of European cars had "completely lost the plot in the past decade". A big claim indeed, but what does he mean exactly?

"They are more concerned with style over substance, stripping out safety features to keep costs down helps the manufacturers sell more cars as it makes them cheaper, but the end result is that ordinary people die," Mr Mr Wilson said

Imported cars are being stripped of their safety features? How could Australians be so blind to not notice? Mr Wilson says that importers of European cars (e.g. Ateco) are bringing cars to Australia with the lowest possible specifications and selling the cars with limited safety features (base models).

In doing so, importers are able to charge a fortune for higher end models that have the safety features that give them their credibility. Even though the safety features on the high end variants here are standard on the base models in Europe.


Furthermore, Mr Wilson points out that many Australians are being fooled by the European New Car Assessment Program (ENCAP) which despite being highly reputable, does not apply to Australia imported vehicles due to specification differences (for the worse).

"What also worries me is Australians are reading international crash test reports where the safety features were included." he said.

One of Mr Wilson's main targets has been curtain airbags which tend to get stripped out of imported vehicles to cut costs. He also argues that our neighbours in New Zealand don't share our problems.

Given the relaxed import laws in NZ, Japanese & Korean cars are available at a much cheaper rate, hence European importers have to compete.

"In New Zealand, importers are competing with second-hand Japanese imports with all the safety features. In Australia they do not have the same competition. It's a cozy arrangement between the car companies to leave safety devices off to cut costs." he said.

Of course you couldn't talk about unsafe cars without bringing up the Holden Barina, and Mr Wilson comes out firing.

"The (Holden) Barina has ABS standard in New Zealand, but in Australia it does not come with ABS, but costs about the same price," he said.

Why would Holden ship the Barina (which received a 2 star safety rating - you can watch the video here), without ABS standard? It all comes down to money.

As for the European cars, we will have to investigate this claim a little further, expect a lot more on this issue in the next few weeks.