The Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has added a new feature to its star ratings, with the introduction of date stamps that are said to make it easier for consumers.
ANCAP says the date stamps allow potential new-car buyers to "identify the requirements against which each car has been tested", meaning those same people won't need to have a working knowledge of the "road map" which sees the authority increase its safety requirements on a year-on-year basis.
The rating system won't change - there will still be scores of between one and five stars for all vehicles tested - but the date stamp will include a broader, detailed element that is said to offer consumers the requirements against which a vehicle has been tested.
"Each year a rating is a different rating," said ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh. "When people buy a car they want to know they've bought the car with the latest rating. That's the idea with the date stamps.
"Consumers are now well aware of ANCAP and its one- to five-star safety rating system and are interested to know how a five-star rating of earlier years compares with a five-star rating of today," he said. "The date stamps provide consumers with a clear visual reference as to the ANCAP safety rating of a vehicle."
The idea is partly to draw direct comparisons from the crash ratings of years' past to those of the current day. One of the standout examples was the Renault Megane, which scored five stars when first tested in 2008, but just three stars in 2014 when the facelifted model was tested - a result that was mainly affected by technological problems, rather than actual crash performance.
However, McIntosh said the increasing role that technology is playing in the automotive spectrum - and the ANCAP crash test scoring system - will see due rewards for those car makers that are keeping up to date with safety technologies.
"We're lifting the bar all the time," he said. "Because manufacturers themselves have made such rapid improvements, we want to reward those manufacturers that are staying current with the new requirements in crash tests.
"Those differences are really important. We went for years without a lot of change," he said of the increasing application of automated and semi-automated crash-prevention technology in new cars. "Performance [in terms of the scores achieved] is going to be different, too."
All new ratings published from July will have the date stamp added, and they will be rolled out across ANCAP and manufacturer advertising materials and other relevant new car information sources in the coming months.