News this week that the all-new 2015 Mazda 2 will not come with some potentially life saving safety equipment as standard has sparked a conversation that needs to be had: should safety cost you more?
My opinion is that no, it most certainly shouldn't – for the most part.
The Japanese brand this week announced it will only offer a reverse-view camera as an option on the new Mazda 2, and that reversing sensors – which are almost as effective as a camera in helping you figure out what’s behind you – are also optional. Base model Neo and mid-spec Maxx models ask $778 for a camera to be fitted (in an integrated rear-vision mirror unit), while the flagship Genki – inexcusably – misses out on the system, which requires buyers to spend $420 more.
Parking sensors are accessory options, too, costing $299 at the back of the car and $599 at the front.
Those items are costly when you put it all together. Say you want to buy the Neo at $14,990, which, commendably, is better equipped than the car it replaces and a full $800 cheaper, too: you’ll need to spend almost all of that $800 to get a camera on that car.
I understand that there are some types of vehicle that are more likely to, shall we say, 'need' a rear-view camera or sensors. SUV buyers in particular are keen for the extra safety net offered by such technologies, as those cars tend to be hard to see out of.
But where the Mazda 2 fights is a segment where buyers may actually benefit some form of parking assistance on a day-to-day basis. And that’s not even getting in to the fact that the all-new 2’s styling does it no favours when it comes to outward vision from the driver’s seat.
There is no denying the motives of Mazda, here. It's business.
The company’s local chief, managing director Martin Benders, said it himself: “It’s a matter of where you put your money. We put our money into fuel-efficient engines, a new benchmark in terms of steering and handling, and some things have to fall by the wayside, or in to an accessory column.”
And, credit where it’s due, Mazda is offering its Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) automated low-speed braking system that works between 4 and 30km/h, and costs $400. That’s something I personally wouldn't want to be absorbed into the cost of the car, because in my experience the technology can be somewhat, er, hit or miss.
I'm not saying all the available safety gear should be fitted as standard on all spec levels - that'd be silly. I get how car pricing works, and that the market will only pay for what it wants. But I am saying that it probably wouldn't have been such a big deal for Mazda to absorb the cost of a camera, or even just sensors, into the manufacturer’s list price of the new 2 - they certainly wouldn’t have been alone in doing so.
Toyota recently updated the Yaris with a touchscreen media system and standard reverse-view camera on even the cheapest model in the range, the $15,690 Ascent. For those playing along at home, Toyota claims it has added $2000 of value and the price of the Ascent hasn’t budged (but nor have the drivetrains!).
Honda has likewise made a camera standard on its Jazz VTi model, which kicks off at an identical-to-the-2-Neo $14,990. And don’t get me started on the fact there’s only a touchscreen media unit on the top-spec Mazda 2…
What perhaps irks me most is that the top-end Genki – a $19,990 car in manual guise or $21,990 with an auto ‘box – has the colour screen sitting there, waiting to be used as a display unit for a camera. It wouldn’t have cost them much to make it a factory-fit item, rather than ask buyers to fork out an extra $420 for the camera when the car arrives in Australia.
But Mazda isn’t alone, here.
Volkswagen asks buyers to spend $1500 more on their top-spec Polo 81TSI for a “Driving Comfort package”, which includes adaptive cruise control, climate control air conditioning, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a driver fatigue detection system, city emergency brake system with warning and auto-braking, auto headlights, auto wipers, a reverse-view camera and tyre pressure monitoring.
You can’t single out the camera alone, which means you’re spending $22,490 for the 81TSI with all that fruit, and buyers who can’t afford to shell out for anything higher than the 66TSI don’t even get the option of a camera, though sensors are optional on both grades.
You’ll need to choose the top-end Renault Clio Dynamique (at $23,290) to get a camera as standard, which is complemented by rear sensors on that model. A camera is also optional on the mid-spec Expression (from $17,790).
Look, you’ll either care about having some form of parking assistance, or you won’t. There’ll be people out there who will argue that if you need a camera to park your car, you shouldn’t have a licence – but those people are wrong.
Cameras and sensors aren’t just about making sure you don’t bump the car behind you when you’re doing a reverse-parallel at your local cafe.
They’re also about ensuring that you don’t run into or over something far more valuable than any car.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below.