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Five safety stars for Falcon

Safe as houses: Falcon is the first first-star local.

New Ford Falcon becomes first Australian car to score maximum five-star crash rating

4 Aug 2008

FORD’S new Falcon has become the first Australian-built car to be awarded a maximum five-star crash safety rating from the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

The presentation of the highest crash safety accolade available globally sees the FG Falcon sedan match luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz C-class in terms of occupant protection.

More importantly, it betters the four-star ANCAP rating earned by Toyota’s homegrown Camry and Aurion sedans, as well as the Falcon’s most direct rival in Holden’s VE Commodore sedan.

The Falcon’s five-star safety rating was revealed in News Limited papers on Monday and has been confirmed by GoAuto sources, but won’t be officially announced by ANCAP until Wednesday (August 6).

Ford said it expected an ANCAP crash test result on Wednesday, but would not pre-empt the announcement by the nation’s leading independent crash test body.

“At this stage it is pure speculation,” Ford public affairs manager Sinead McAlary told GoAuto. “Testing has been taking place over the last few weeks and the results are being collated. We expect a result to be announced on Wednesday,” she said.

The benchmark safety ranking is likely to be regarded by many as vindication for the criticism Ford Australia’s redesigned large sedan received at its April launch for not matching the Commodore and Aurion by fitting side curtain airbags as standard at base level.

In addition to twin front and front-side airbags, all Commodore and Aurion variants come standard with front and rear passenger-protecting side curtain airbags.

The cheapest Falcon sedan offers only four airbags, including twin front and front-side airbags, with the latter also providing front head protection.

Curtain airbags are standard in the Falcon G6E and G6E Turbo, bringing the total number of airbags to six, but providing head protection for rear passengers in all other models remains a $300 option.

A curtain airbag-equipped Falcon XT still undercuts the similarly-specified Commodore Omega on price, and Ford says it would be unfair to make buyers, which at base model level consist predominantly of fleet customers, pay extra for a safety device that would be redundant for 90 per cent of the time.

“If we believed we needed to do it (fit side curtains as standard) then we would have made them standard,” said Ford Australia vice-president of product development Trevor Worthington in April.

Unofficially, Ford says the new FG was designed to achieve maximum internal and external crash test results, but company officials have stopped short of predicting a five-star ANCAP outcome on the record.

“Vehicle structure is what delivers the best crash outcomes. We have invested heavily in basic vehicle structure, rather than simply adding curtain airbags. We welcome independent crash testing of the FG,” said Mr Worthington.

“We understand very well all of the modes we need to design for to deliver real world crash safety. How well our car will perform in some particular modes we will just have to wait and see.

“Every time you do a single test you get a single outcome. We would say the robustness of our engineering and our design is significantly more robust than ever before. But (with) one particular crash you will get a different result every time.

“So we can say that it is the safest Falcon ever, but we have to wait and see what the result will be. We have high hopes for how it will perform,” said Mr Worthington.

In response to side curtain airbag questioning at the FG launch, Ford president Bill Osborne told the media that “…to reduce it to four versus six airbags is not an enlightened view.

“The point I am trying to make is that all of those conclusions come from the assumption that you can discern the safety performance of a vehicle by counting the airbags. An individual feature does not determine the safety feature of a vehicle.

“It cannot be reduced to the presence or absence of one particular feature,” said Mr Osborne.

To achieve a maximum five-star ANCAP crash result vehicles must not only pass an offset frontal impact test at 64km/h but a side impact test at 50km/h.

From this year ANCAP has also decreed that, to be eligible for as five-star safety rating, a vehicle must also be fitted with electronic stability control (ESC) – as is the case with all Australian-made sedans (except LPG Falcons).

Wednesday’s official announcement will also include child occupant and pedestrian safety ratings for the Falcon.

Ford is expected to make safety a major selling point for its new Falcon in the wake of the ANCAP ranking, given it improves upon that of Holden’s billion-dollar VE Commodore, which continues to be more popular than the Falcon in Australia’s declining large-car sales segment.

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