Mike Song, head of operations for Africa and the Middle East at Hyundai. Picture: HYUNDAI
Mike Song, head of operations for Africa and the Middle East at Hyundai. Picture: HYUNDAI

Hyundai is calling on Africa and Middle East governments to support local or regional New Car Assessment Programmes (NCAP), with consumers currently comparing results from Europe or the US when making buying decisions.

The company’s head of operations for Africa and the Middle East, Mike Song, says consumers increasingly consider NCAP ratings when choosing a new car. However, he warns that buyers can be misled if they live outside the market where testing takes place.

"NCAP stars are like horsepower or fuel economy — they are a scientific measurement that people can use to compare models," says Song.

WHILE THE BASIC STRUCTURE OF A VEHICLE WILL USUALLY REMAIN CONSISTENT WORLDWIDE, MANY SAFETY FEATURES ARE ADD-ONS.

"That has transformed crash protection into a deciding factor for many buyers. The problem is NCAP tests are market-specific, so that EuroNCAP tests, for example, only relate to EU-specification cars. The same model, as sold in a different market, may not get the same result."

While the basic structure of a vehicle will usually remain consistent worldwide, many safety features are add-ons. This can include airbags, three-point seatbelts rather than less safe lap-belts for rear seats, Isofix child seat fittings or active safety features such as electronic stability control (ESC) that help drivers keep control of the vehicle.

and avoid accidents. The latest features offered include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning systems or adaptive cruise control. NCAP schemes are consistently updated to incorporate new technology, often far beyond minimum legal requirements.

A number of cars sold in SA were tested recently but had to go to Europe to undergo the crash tests. Picture: MARK SMYTH
A number of cars sold in SA were tested recently but had to go to Europe to undergo the crash tests. Picture: MARK SMYTH

"Buyers may not want some features, but they should have the power to make an informed decision," says Song.

"Locally relevant NCAP testing can give them power."

The first NCAP was launched in the US in 1979, backed by the federal government and using a series of standardised tests to encourage manufacturers to build safer cars, and consumers to buy them.

SAFETY FEATURES ARE AN AREA WHERE IT IS TOO EASY TO TRIM THE COST OF AN ENTRY-LEVEL MODEL.

Today, a series of NCAPs worldwide relate to national markets, such as Japan, China and Korea, or to regional markets such as Europe— the widely referenced EuroNCAP — Australia and New Zealand, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, with others in development.

A Global NCAP provides additional testing of models sold in markets without their own programme and has been referenced recently in stories relating to some of the vehicles being sold in SA that would not pass many international NCAP crash test standards.

At the moment there is no programme specific to any part of Africa or the Middle East but there are calls for it following the recent introduction of the Safer Cars for Africa campaign introduced by Global NCAP and the Automobile Association of SA.

"Many buyers and markets are extremely price sensitive, and safety features are an area where it is too easy to trim the cost of an entry-level model," says Song. "Ideally, governments will set a high minimum standard to stop this. Where that is not possible, NCAP testing can make sure consumers understand the risks and can encourage better choices."