The head of Renault Australia has questioned the relevance of new stricter safety guidelines introduced this year by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).
Speaking on the topic of the now again-delayed Renault Captur sub-compact SUV at this week's new Clio GT launch, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar told CarAdvice he believes a vehicle's level of safety is not the sum of its airbag count.
"I'm a believer in good, safe vehicles, and as far as I'm concerned, I believe in the Euro NCAP process,” Hocevar said of the European crash test scoring system which doesn't require rear-seat airbag protection for occupants in order for cars to score a five-star rating. Conversely, the ANCAP scoring system will not award a five-star score to a vehicle without airbag protection for rear occupants.
"[Rear curtain airbags] were never in the design of the vehicle. The vehicle was always designed to have a complete safety package excluding the rear airbag and it achieved its full five-star [Euro] NCAP [safety rating] with flying colours."
Last May, Renault claimed that the chance of a fatal side collision is low due to the introduction of stability control and the low rate of rear passenger occupancy. It also argued their own seat-mounted front-side airbags do a better job of protecting front passengers than traditional roof-mounted curtain items.
Spruiking the European vehicle safety body as one of the most “active and broadest” testing regimes globally, Hocevar said he thinks Euro NCAP is also one of the toughest due to the competition between some of the best automotive engineering companies in the world.
“And for us to perform so well there means that we're really keeping good company."
Hocevar questioned ANCAP’s January 1, 2014 implementation of mandatory rear curtain airbags for all five-star rated vehicles.
"I think that any sort of divergence that the local testing authority has taken is interesting to the point where I wonder about the relevance going forward."
As for Captur?
"Five-star Euro NCAP is what it is and that's what we'll communicate," Hocevar said. "That's what we've communicated on Clio and Clio's selling very well."
The French brand’s fourth-generation city car earned ANCAP’s maximum five-star safety rating back in November, despite also not being available with rear passenger-protecting curtain airbags – had it been launched this year it would have only scored four.
Originally planned to launch locally in the first half of 2014, the Renault Captur has been a point of frustration for the local division, with the Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport and Peugeot 2008-rivalling crossover now not expected to arrive until towards the end of the third quarter.