Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers admits he is bemused by The First Car List released by the Victorian Government yesterday.
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The list was based on data compiled by the Monash University Accident Research Centre and listed 50 “safe and affordable” used cars for young people looking to buy their first car.

Included on the list were vehicles up to 28 years old, including the Peugeot 505 and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class W126.

The list rated used cars priced between $1800 and $14,000 on crashworthiness and their likelihood to harm other road users, and included vehicles that scored four or five stars for the crashworthiness component.

Victorian Roads Minister, Tim Pallas, said The First Car List provided information for new drivers and parents to make an informed decision when purchasing their first vehicle, but Mr Devers said it was illogical not to include new cars that also satisfied the list’s criteria.

“While Suzuki applauds any effort to help lower the road toll, I’m amazed the list was restricted only to used cars,” Mr Devers said.“Parents wanting a safe car for their children can purchase a new Suzuki Alto – with six airbags and electronic stability program as standard – for only $12,990 driveaway. That also gives them the peace of mind of a new car warranty covering three years and/or 100,000km.”

Mr Devers said the contradiction between the Victorian Government’s Traffic Accident Commission’s (TAC) How safe is your car campaign and The First Car List was most confusing to himself and to consumers.

“On one hand the government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars urging consumers to buy a car with six airbags and ESP. On the other hand it now promotes a register where only a handful of the 50 cars listed even has six airbags.“Is this the same government that is the first in Australia to make ESP mandatory on all cars?” he asked.

The How safe is your car website addresses the issue of purchasing a new car versus a used car.

“Purchasing a new car gives you access to the latest safety technologies available. Analysis of crashworthiness by year of car manufacture carried out under the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) program shows newer cars are on average safer than older ones. Furthermore, if safety features are optional, purchasing a car new allows these optional features to be fitted to the car. Most critical safety features such as airbags and ESC can only be fitted to the car at time of manufacture,” it says.

Mr Devers also questioned why so many large cars were on the list when the government is trying to lower emissions levels, but How safe is your car defends their inclusion.

“Purchasing a used car often saves many thousands of dollars over purchasing the same car new. This allows you to buy a larger car or a car with better safety features than you may have been able to afford otherwise. The UCSR has identified that larger cars and cars with more safety features generally provide better real world occupant protection in a crash than smaller cars with less safety features. It is often the case that an older second hand large or luxury car will provide better crash protection than a new small car with few safety features, for around the same money.”

But the most poignant point in the entire How safe is your car campaign – and the most contradictory with The First Car List – is its catchcry:

“If it doesn’t have electronic stability control (ESC) and curtain airbags, cross it off your list.”