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Standard stability closer

Racing stable: Ford was the first to offer ESC in an Australian-built vehicle, in the Territory in 2004, but Holden's Commodore was the first homegrown vehicle to feature it as standard, in 2006.

Government launches impact assessment study into mandatory ESC for all new vehicles

General News logo28 Jul 2008


THE federal government says it expects new Australian Design Rule (ADR) legislation that mandates the standard fitment of electronic stability control (ESC) technology in all new cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles sold in Australia to be in place by the end of this year.

As GoAuto reported exclusively earlier this month, Australia and other members of the UN’s World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Standards were soon expected to become signatories to a plan to adopt new Global Technical Regulation (GTR) for ESC systems.

80 center imageThe federal minister for infrastructure, transport, regional development and local government Anthony Albanese (left) last Tuesday (July 22) announced the commencement of a feasibility study that will investigate issues including the merits of mandating ESC itself, following his government’s recent vote to adopt the new worldwide GTR for ESC.

“The new GTR opens the way for a detailed examination of the case for mandating ESC in Australia through the development of an ADR,” said Mr Albanese.

“Within weeks, a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) assessing the potential ramifications for industry and the wider community of an ESC mandate will be released for public consultation.

“The RIS will look at a range of issues including whether the goal of safer vehicles can be achieved via non-regulatory means.

“If the case for an ADR is established, we expect to get the necessary legislation in place by the end of 2008,” said the minister’s press release.

Mr Albanese said research undertaken for the British government found vehicles equipped with ESC are 25 per cent less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those without it, and that according to the US Department of Transportation when fully deployed ESC technology could save up to 9600 lives annually.

Victoria has already mandated ESC in all new cars from 2011 – the same year it will be required on all new passenger vehicles sold in the US.

“International research has found this technology has the potential to be the greatest innovation since the seatbelt in saving lives and making our roads significantly safer,” said Mr Albanese.

The minister’s press release went on to emphasis the high take-up rate of ESC technology in new cars sold here.

“Already many Australians appreciate the safety benefits of ESC, with almost half of the new cars and 4WDs sold in December fitted with the technology. What’s more, a growing number of manufacturers are voluntarily responding to the needs of the marketplace and including ESC as a standard feature in their latest models,” it said.

Two days later on July 24 the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) issued a press released titled “Lifesaving technology now fitted to more than half of new vehicles”.

It said the combined proportion of passenger cars and SUVs with ESC as standard equipment has grown from 34.7 to 57.7 per cent in the past 12 months and that three out of every four new SUVs and 50 per cent of new passenger cars sold in June were fitted with ESC.

“It is encouraging to see that the take-up rate of this potentially life-saving technology is on the rise,” said FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar.

“Motorists are recognising the importance of ESC and vehicle brands have responded quickly and are making the technology available in increasing numbers,” he said.

Asked by GoAuto if it supported the government’s plan to mandate ESC in new vehicles in Australia, the FCAI questioned the need for such regulation.

“The FCAI supports the federal government's move to conduct a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) into the possibility of mandating the fitting of ESC,” said FCAI media and communications manager James Goodwin.

“The industry has been working with the government with background information for the RIS and we will continue to work with them throughout the process.

“As an industry, we need to consider if regulation is necessary.

“The increasing availability of ESC and the growing take-up rate of the technology show that it is being recognised by both vehicle brands and customers as being important, lifesaving equipment,” he said.

GM Holden was the first and only car company to support the government’s announcement on July 22, when it announced via press release that it welcomed the next step towards making ESC standard on all new vehicles sold in Australia.

“Holden has traditionally taken a lead in safety in Australia and has a long history of delivering affordable safety technologies ahead of regulations,” said GM Holden executive director of sales, marketing and aftersales Alan Batey.

“Holden was the first local manufacturer to introduce seatbelts as standard, ABS as standard and airbags as standard. Introducing ESP as standard on our locally-built cars continued that leadership position,” he said.

“We endorse the Rudd government’s push to investigate introducing electronic stability control as mandatory, as we see this technology being a major contributor to increasing safety on Australian roads,” said Mr Batey.

Ford Australia told GoAuto it also backed the process that could establish an ADR for the standard fitment of ESC in new vehicles.

“Our understanding is that Australia will take up a new global ESC standard, which we welcome and is the first step necessary before implementing its introduction,” said Ford Australia public affairs manager Sinead McAlary.

“You can’t have legislation that works without having a standard that everyone has to live up to.

“Ford was the first manufacturer to introduce stability control in an Australian-built vehicle, in the Territory in 2004. ESC then became available in the BF Falcon and we were the first to offer it with a V8, and now obviously ESC is standard on all petrol Falcon sedans and all Mondeos,” she said.

As stated by Mr Albanese, an impact assessment of the proposed ESC ADR will be released for public debate within weeks, and if a case for the standard fitment of ESC in all new vehicles sold in Australia is established the legislation will be finalised by late 2008.

That timeframe has alarmed many industry insiders, who said a potential January 2009 implementation for a new ESC ADR would present serious logistical problems for both importers and local car-makers. They added that the price of many new vehicles could rise to cover the standard fitment of ESC.

“January 2009 is ridiculous,” said a senior executive at a major vehicle importer who did not wish to be named.

“Such a time scale shows a lack of understanding of how car industry works. We are ordering cars now for delivery early next year - should we now stop ordering cars? And what about dealer stock? “While we support the idea, to do it on this time scale is simply not possible. Technically it’s possible to fit ESC for the few cars we sell that don’t yet have it as standard - if you have ABS then you can have ESC. So the real story here is about utes and commercials, some of which don’t have either.” GM Holden spokesman John Lindsay also said a January 2009 start date would be unworkable and that industry would be given sufficient notice before any potential ESC ADR was implemented.

“Our understanding is that the ADR would potentially be published then, which is the regulation, but the regulation would then need to have an effective start date.

“They have to give manufacturers and everyone warning, so what you would expect is that if it did go through then they would publish the regulations and say that by X-Y-Z you will need to have this done, and that would probably be a few years or something like that. That’s not for me to say – I wouldn’t like to put a time on that.

“There’s absolutely no way that manufacturers would be ready for something that’s compulsory so soon, because it’s not something you just bolt on. That would present concerns for us,” said Mr Lindsay.

GoAuto understands that, if approved, the ESC ADR will not be enacted before 2010.

The World Forum, which comprises 50 countries, car-makers, consumers and road users, is currently working on GTRs for hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles, as well as measures to reduce exhaust emissions and to improve the testing and reporting of engine efficiency.

Charged with administering the 1958 Agreement on the Adoption of Uniform Technical Prescriptions for Vehicles and the 1998 Global Technical Regulations for Wheeled Vehicles, Equipment and Parts, it has put in place 127 regulations that it says are regularly updated in accordance with the latest technological progress and scientific breakthroughs.

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