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Renault Australia questions ANCAP relevance

No deal-breaker: Renault was a safety pioneer here when it aced ANCAP tests in 2001 with the Laguna, but now it is questioning the importance of the local safety testing organisation.

Euro NCAP score carries more heft than ANCAP, says Renault Australia chief

1 May 2014

RENAULT Australia managing director Justin Hocevar has questioned the relevance and future of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, which will award its new Captur crossover no more than four stars when it arrives here in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The Clio-based Captur misses out on rear side airbags, meaning it cannot attain the now seemingly requisite five-star result in Australia. This is unlike Europe, where different safety regulations mean the car does attain the (Euro NCAP) maximum score.

ANCAP criteria that came into effect on January 1, 2014 requires all new cars released in Australia to have front and rear head-protecting curtain airbags as standard to be eligible for the maximum five star rating.

Had the Captur been released in 2013 like the similarly equipped Clio, it would have been eligible for a full five-star rating even without the curtain airbags. It is worth noting that Renault was the first maker to get five ANCAP stars in 2001 with its Laguna.

Renault Australia is, naturally, not in favour of ANCAP’s position, and managing director Mr Hocevar says it will attempt to skirt the issue by instead publicising the car’s five-star Euro NCAP score front-and-centre.

“Let’s face it, Captur is based off Clio, and Clio won best-in-class supermini… We’re very confident in the vehicle’s safety,” he told GoAuto this week.

“The testing regime of ENCAP I think is more substantial than that of ANCAP, they're testing a lot more vehicles, they’re testing all the Euro-made vehicles, and I think the relevance of that in the scheme of things is what matters.

“We haven’t walked away from safety and we still have that five star rating, you know… in fact it was the best score that’s been achieved in its class (in Europe).” Speaking with GoAuto earlier this year, ANCAP CEO Nicholas Clarke said the crash test authority has required head protection for front occupants with either curtain airbags or combination seat airbags for a number of years but the new rules added better protection for rear passengers.

“Unless it shifts to full curtain airbags by the time it gets here, it can’t get a five star rating because it needs the full front and back head protecting airbags and really the most effective way to do that is the curtain,” he said.

“What surprises me about the Captur is that it doesn’t have the gear. If you look at the cars in this market that are five-star, do a quick assessment of the gear they’ve got and I think you will find that pretty much all of them have curtain airbags.” “I’m surprised that grab rails would take preference over curtain airbags but that’s not for me to judge.” But Mr Hocevar countered by stating: “I think this perception that a vehicle’s safety is the sum of its airbags is not necessarily the sole truth, it’s the sum of many things, with active and passive systems, and a rigid shell key parts.

“We’re not the only ones that will be faced with this issue, other brands that according to ANCAP will be downgraded, but I imagine they’ll also communicate it’s a five-star ENCAP car.

“And will ANCAP still be around? Will they still get funding if there’s no Australian-made cars (from 2017)?” As we reported earlier this month, the federal government is reportedly considering its stance on funding for ANCAP following the end of local automotive manufacturing in 2017.

Speaking to Fairfax, industry minister Ian Macfarlane questioned whether there was a need for an Australian crash test system beyond Ford, Holden and Toyota shutting their respective local manufacturing operations in a few years time.

ANCAP communications manager Rhianne Robson told GoAuto at the time that the independent authority would not comment on the report until the Coalition hands down its first budget on May 13.

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