‘Safety of our customers is our top priority’ - Nissan responds to shocking ‘Hardbody’ crash result

06 November 2018 - 16:52

“The safety of our customers is Nissan’s top priority. All our cars meet or exceed regulations in all countries in which they are sold.”

That’s Nissan South Africa’s response to Friday’s shocking revelation that the body shell of its MP300 “Hardbody” double-cab - made in its Rossyln‚ Pretoria plant and marketed as “African Tough” - collapsed in a crash test conducted in Munich two months ago by renowned car safety organisation Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme).

The bakkie was given a safety rating for adults of zero stars - because of the “poor protection” it offered to the driver’s head and chest - and two stars for the youngsters strapped into child seats in the back.

“The occupant compartment completely failed to absorb the energy of the crash‚ resulting in a high risk of fatality or injury‚” said David Ward‚ secretary general of Global NCAP.

“The NP300 ‘Hardbody’ is ridiculously misnamed as its body shell collapsed.”

Ward also slammed Nissan’s “safety shield” protection claims as "grossly misleading”.

Nissan appears to be unfazed by NCAP’s damning comments‚ saying the bakkie was “a tried and trusted partner for businesses and entrepreneurs‚ providing reliability and affordability”.

“Continuous improvements are being made to the NP300 such as dual airbags and ABS brakes‚ which are fitted as standard equipment‚” the manufacturer said.

“Nissan is studying further enhancements.”

The bakkie - its 704 sales last month making it the sixth most sold light commercial vehicle in SA - was one of the four vehicles bought by Global NCAP from local dealerships earlier this year for the sole purpose of being sent to Germany for crash testing.

With very minimum legal requirements around safety equipment in South Africa‚ and relatively low consumer awareness and demand for them‚ especially at the bottom end of the market‚ most manufacturers choose not to equip their “cheaper” vehicles for the SA market with electronic stability control (ESC)‚ an anti-skid safety feature which is thought by Global NCAP to have saved as many lives as the seatbelt.

This despite the fact that South Africa has one of the highest car-accident fatality rates in the world – more than 14‚000 people were killed on our roads last year.

Global NCAP believes that ESC‚ along with both frontal and side airbags‚ should be standard safety equipment in cars‚ says its technical director‚ Alejandro Furas.

“South African consumers are no less important than Europeans‚ Australians‚ Japanese or Americans‚ so why then should they receive inferior safety features?” Furas says.

A country’s citizens didn’t get safe cars because of government safely regulations‚ he said. NCAP’s car safety requirements are far “more demanding” of motor manufacturers than government regulation.

“If Europe didn’t have an NCAP the cars in those countries would not be nearly as safe as they are.

“NCAP is the most effective catalyst for a country to introduce better safety protection to its cars on a voluntary basis.”

That’s because no-one knows how safe a car actually is until it’s subjected to an NCAP crash test. And when consumers and fleet managers know‚ they demand safer cars.

“Manufacturers can boast their vehicles are tough‚ and even that they have a lot of safety features‚ but that means nothing‚” Furas said.

“The crash test reveals the truth.”

Last year the first round of Global NCAP testing of South African cars included the Datsun Go+‚ which scored one star for adult protection and two for children.

At the time it had just one airbag‚ a driver’s frontal one‚ and lacked ABS (anti-lock braking system).

In late 2014 Global NCAP wrote to Nissan‚ which owns the Datsun brand‚ urging the company not to launch the Go into the Indian market and others‚ including South Africa‚ pending an urgent redesign of its body shell because is was “so clearly sub-standard”.

Nissan launched it anyway.

But facelifted versions of the Go and Go+‚ to be launched on the local market next week‚ will have two airbags and ABS standard across the range.

A Nissan spokesman said VDC - vehicle dynamic control‚ Nissan’s name for stability control - “will be introduced in the next months”.

That would make the Go one of very few cars on sale in SA for less than R200,000 which is equipped with that key safety feature‚ along with the VW UP! and Renault Sandero.

Of the three hatchbacks crash tested by Global NCAP this year along with that Nissan bakkie - Toyota Yaris‚ Hyundai i20 and Kia Picanto - only the Picanto was found by NCAP engineers to have a stable body shell.

But it scored only two stars for child safety‚ because one of the child seats‚ fitted according to Kia’s instructions‚ unlatched on impact.

All three hatchbacks scored three stars for adult protection‚ and‚ like the Picanto‚ the Yaris scored two stars for child protection.

The Yaris‚ the only hatchback with three-point seatbelts in all five seats‚ scored three stars for child protection.

Responding to the Picanto rating‚ Kia’s communications manager Christo Valentyn said: “The safety of our customers is our top priority‚ and we are working closely with KIA Motors Corporation to investigate these results.

“We will comment fully once these investigations have been completed.”

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