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Ford Aus boss carefully questions ANCAP

Esc key: Ford’s new Escape SUV will retain the same five-star crash safety score as its Kuga forbear despite the lack of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard.

Both Mustang and Escape lack AEB, yet Ford ANCAP scores differ

Ford logo25 Feb 2017

FOLLOWING the Mustang’s two-star crash safety result, Ford Australia is aiming to highlight industry testing inconsistences on the back of a five-star score for its born-again Escape SUV in Australasian New Car Assessment (ANCAP) testing.

Still reeling from the Ford sportscar’s low rating, in which the vehicle was heavily criticised primarily for its lack of active safety technologies including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), the Blue Oval this week launched its Escape medium SUV without AEB as standard on any model grade.

Although offered with a new nameplate, the lightly revised Escape retains the five-star ANCAP rating of the Kuga tested in 2012 – which Ford Australia has been keen to spruik.

However, both the new SUV and Mustang were tested under vastly different criteria, while both Ford vehicles have been date-stamped ‘2017’ by ANCAP.

Speaking with GoAuto at the media launch of the Ford Escape in Melbourne, Ford president and CEO Graeme Whickman insisted that Mustang’s two-star rating was overwhelmingly affected by its low active safety score.

“We have to be very careful about the interpretation of the Mustang results,” he said. “You have to take a strong factual view of what the results are telling you, and also the testing regime.

“There has been a lot more balanced commentary since that (two-star result) first broke, as people actually get to understand the facts.

“So the facts are, the four pillars of that rating: five star – pedestrian (protection), four star – adult (protection), three star – child (protection), two star – driver assist. If you look at specifically the driver assist two-star– which drove the whole result, ignore the five, four and three stars – it was on the back of no lane-keeping (assistance), no AEB, and no seatbelt reminder in the rear.

“I’m not critical of the safety body, it’s their job to put their point of view in front of people based on a testing regime, just as long as it’s done in a factual way.”

Ford was also accused of attempting to avoid providing a vehicle to ANCAP for testing, but Mr Whickman denied that was the case.

“We were down a pathway (of) some testing in Europe at the time NCAP came and asked (for a vehicle),” he explained.

“We were already down a pathway (to the next model facelift), so it doesn’t really make sense for us to (offer a vehicle). Of course, it’s ANCAP’s prerogative to do whatever they want, but at the same time we’re struggling to keep pace with customer demand.”

Ford has now confirmed that the 2018 Mustang will be equipped with active cruise control, AEB and lane-keep assistance, likely improving its active safety score.

Mr Whickman added, however, that as the partner of ANCAP which physically tested the Mustang in Europe, “Euro NCAP has a strong emphasis on SUVs, MPVs and the like (and) so they have put in conditions such as AEB.”

Yet the above safety equipment has formed part of a $1300-optional Technology Package on Ford’s Escape medium SUV launched locally this week.

Despite this, the five-star ANCAP result carried over from the Escape’s Kuga predecessor with no score-affecting requirement for active safety technologies beyond electronic stability control (ESC).

For the frontal offset crash test, the Kuga/Escape scored 15.33 points out of 20 compared with 13.82 points for the Mustang, while both Fords received a perfect score for the side impact result.

Asked how the Escape can be a five-star ANCAP performer given its lack of standard active safety aids, Mr Whickman replied: “I don’t want to bring into question the testing regime.”“It’s clear that they (ANCAP) have differing assessments, and they’re looking to try and harmonise it over time,” he added.

“I think at times it can be confusing to consumers and that’s why the facts need to speak for themselves.”

The Ford Australia president and CEO also denied the suggestion that the company believed its buyers were more interested in technology such as automatic reverse-parking assistance, which is standard on the flagship $45K-plus Escape Titanium model grade, rather than AEB that was relegated to the options list.

“I’m not suggesting that somebody would value one thing over another, it’s their own personal preference and we don’t try to take that preference,” he said.

“I think people will make trade-offs in their mind in general, regardless of the product. The first step … is make sure you have the options available to them, so they can make a choice. In terms of AEB, it’s part of a pack from the (Escape) Trend upwards, if somebody wants that then it’s there for them to take.

“If that suits their taste and their requirements, then that’s great.”

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