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Kia 'disappointed' by four-star ruling for Carnival

Star car: ANCAP has awarded the new Kia Carnival a four-star crash safety rating thanks to the lack of seatbelt warning lights for the second row.

Lack of second-row seatbelt warning light strips Kia Carnival of top ANCAP score

23 Feb 2015

THE late arrival of Kia’s new Carnival people-mover to Australia has cost it the chance of a five-star score, regardless of its performance in local crash safety testing.

The absence of a warning light for second-row seatbelt fastening on all grades of the Carnival means that Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), under new rules implemented on January 1 of this year, will not consider the car as being worthy of a five-star score.

Overseas, the car has scored highly, and comes with a wide variety of passive and active safety systems as standard.

Competitors in the same market segment are not fitted with a second-row warning reminder, yet have qualified for a five-star ANCAP score.

Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith told media at the vehicle’s launch in Queensland that Kia Australia rates safety very highly.

“We were disappointed about what occurred,” he said. “If we had have brought the car in on December 31, 2014, it would be a five-star car. The goals changed and we’ve just got to live with that. We’re making production changes now, and hopefully by the third quarter we’ll have the car right.”

The Carnival’s arrival into Australia was delayed thanks to excessive demand for the car in left-hand-drive markets. There is only one Kia plant in the world – in Sohari, Korea – that makes the Carnival, which is based on Kia’s new N-platform that also underpins the next-gen Sorento.

Kia has implemented an engineering running change to incorporate belt reminders into the two outside second-row seats. The Carnival’s middle seat is completely removable, thereby excluding it from the requirement. The engineering process is being undertaken specifically for Australia.

The car’s success in its home market was cited as the main reason for the delayed arrival Down Under, according to Kia Australia product manager Jeff Shafer. It has also had a marked effect on implementing the change at a production level.

“The car is a bit too successful in left-hand drive,” he said. “We launched it first in Korea and the demand there basically pushed RHD production back by a few months.

“We only understood the (seatbelt warning light) issue towards the end of last year, when the delay in production occurred, so that’s effectively when we kicked off the development to add that feature. There are a number of steps you have to go through in terms creating new parts, and testing and validating them for production.”

The change was signalled by ANCAP previously, but Kia Australia general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth said there was a misunderstanding about the status of the second row of seats.

“There was a misinterpretation of what constituted a removable seat,” Mr Hepworth said. “The centre seat in the second row doesn’t need to have it because it is fully removable. There was a belief that because the new design of the outboard seats – which can be released, flipped and stood up – that would constitute a removable seat, but unfortunately that wasn’t ANCAP’s interpretation.”

ANCAP communications manager Rhianne Robson confirmed that the Carnival is currently ineligible for a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

“ANCAP has been increasing requirements for all star ratings annually since 2011,” said Ms Robson. “These increases apply based on the year in which a new vehicle is launched on to the Australasian market.

“The way in which to determine the year requirements against which a vehicle has been assessed is to check the date stamp, which now forms part of the awarded ANCAP safety rating logo. Because all changes are published well in advance, there is no retrospective application.

“If seatbelt reminders for second-row seats are included in the Carnival at a later stage, ANCAP may look to publish a revised rating.”

Mr Hepworth said he was confident that consumers will understand the issue behind the four-star assignation from ANCAP.

“People who do their due diligence and look at what is in each of the cars, will find our major competitors are five-star, but don’t have anywhere near the same level of safety equipment,” said Mr Hepworth, “and they certainly don’t have a second-row seatbelt warning.

“It’s an anomaly of time, and ANCAP in their wisdom have declared this to be a critical safety issue. We feel that the car is perfectly safe in the absence of this, but the rules are you have to have it, and that’s why we’re moving as quickly as we can to get it rectified.”

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