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FCAI attacks state safety push

Unstable: ESC is a potentially life-saving vehicle technology.

Federal automotive body slams state and territory calls for mandatory ESC from 2010

General News logo28 Feb 2008

THE Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has attacked moves by state and territory governments to mandate electronic stability control (ESC) by December 31, 2010.

The industry body, which represents Australian car manufacturers and importers, has told GoAuto that state and territory governments should leave such decisions to the Federal government, and has questioned the legality of the proposed vehicle specification mandate.

FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar told GoAuto this week that the December 31, 2010, deadline for the introduction of ESC on all vehicles – a proposal by Victorian premier John Brumby, which was agreed to by all other state and territory government chiefs last week – was too early.

“If it was to be as early as that, it would impact product plans of some brands I’m sure, but there is a lot of detail that needs to be worked through in terms of what the scope of such a regulation would be,” Mr McKellar said. “There needs to be a proper regulatory evaluation.” Mr McKellar said the Federal government, rather than the states or territories, was best qualified to introduce new standards.

“It is absolutely essential that we maintain a nationally coordinated approach to all matters of regulation of vehicle design. That needs to be done through the Australian Design Rules,” McKellar said.

“Most importantly, we need to ensure the Federal government is leading the direction in that regard.”

80 center imageLeft: FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar.

Mr McKellar said the FCAI’s position in regard to ESC is that the Federal government should support the new United Nations ECE standard that is in the final stages of development.

“What we would expect is that at some point later this year there will be a process which we expect the Federal government will initiate, which is whether that particular regulation should be picked up and applied to the Australian design rules,” Mr McKellar said.

GoAuto understands that the ECE regulation would not require all vehicles to be fitted with standard ESC as early as 2011.

The state and territory government plan is yet to lock-in the finer detail of exactly what would be mandated beyond ESC, but Mr Brumby said his state would also mandate that side curtain airbags be standard by December 31, 2011.

The premier made it clear that such state-based regulations would be withdrawn if the Federal government introduced its own regulations using the same timeframe.

Mr McKellar cast doubt on the idea that the states and territories had the authority to overrule the Australian Design Rules (ADRs), imposing their own standards for ESC and side curtain airbags.

“I think there is some debate over this point. If it cuts across the ADRs there is a legitimate question as to whether they do have that power,” he said.

“There would be an argument that, certainly within the Motor Vehicle Standards, which underpins the system of ADRs, there is a provision that an ADR will over-ride a local standard.” Mr McKellar also said Mr Brumby had used a figure that “under-reported” the fitment of ESC in Australian vehicles, when announcing the planned safety standards.

He said Mr Brumby had referred to 38 per cent passenger vehicles having ESC as standard, while an FCAI-commissioned report from last October indicated just over 48 per cent of passenger vehicles and SUVs were fitted with ESC.

RACV chief engineer Michael Case said the motoring group fully supported the Victorian government’s push to have states and territories introduce new safety standards.

Along with other state motoring groups, the RACV is behind the ANCAP crash safety program that was set up because the ADR system failed to evaluate crash safety beyond a certain point.

“We support what the Victorian government has done here,” Mr Case said. “For them to mandate this is taking the initiative and driving the process. The technology exists, we want it to be standard.” A managing director of a vehicle importer told GoAuto that the move to make ESC and side curtain airbags standard would significantly increase prices of entry-level vehicles.

“A car that costs $13,990 now could cost something like $16,990,” said the source. The source added that the inclusion of ESC was not too difficult for car companies to achieve, but said the addition of side curtain airbags would add substantial cost and would need to be incorporated early in the development process of each new vehicle.

“It’s not something you can add to a car, just like that,” said the source.

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