Cars can — and should — be as safe as houses
Renault has launched an automatic version of its Kwid, but the lack of safety is still unacceptable, says Lerato Matebese
The contentious topic of manufacturers making their vehicles safer is one that makes sense.
I mean, think about it — Volvo is pushing the envelope of reporting zero deaths or serious injuries in its new cars as soon as 2020. If there is a company that can pull it off, Volvo Cars is it. While at this stage only the Swedish car maker has boldly made this promise, you can be assured others will follow suit.
Basic safety requirements should be something that goes without saying, a standard proviso for every new passenger car. ABS brakes, dual airbags and pre-tensioned safety belts for rear passengers should be an easy thing to do.
Manufacturers skimping on these safety measures in the name of keeping the price below that of rivals is rash.
An example was late in 2014 when Datsun launched the Go. Another was two years later when Renault ushered in the equally unsafe Kwid. The Motor News team has been scathing of these two products and, since our road test of the Kwid, we are even more convinced of its lack of integrity.
Granted, independent mobility remains a fundamental issue in our country, what with our lacklustre public transport system. Car ownership remains a pivotal symbol of upward mobility and freedom is derived from owning a car.
I am all for it and if we can make cars even more accessible to a wider audience, then all the better.
However, there are standards that manufacturers should adhere to. The Renault Kwid is well packaged with fairly good ergonomics and boot space, and has great features such as navigation and a touchscreen infotainment system, as well as free insurance for the first year.
Forgoing safety equipment in favour of these features, however, is something that does not sit well with me. Considering that the vehicle is squarely aimed at first-time, black female drivers — who account for 70% of sales — means those inexperienced drivers essentially have no driver aids to assist them.
As we reported recently, an updated Kwid is available in Latin America with ABS, four airbags and rear-seat Isofix anchorage points as standard, as legislation there demands this safety equipment be included in new passenger models. Alas, we do not have these laws in place in SA and, as a result, passenger vehicles without ABS brakes are not illegal here.
There are no plans to bring the upgraded Kwid to our shores, with the company citing that the model is only available in left-hand drive and the upgrades would push up the price of the vehicle, so sales would be lower.
According to Renault SA, it will offer an optional passenger airbag from 2019 as an added measure to make the car safer.
Make what you will of that, but a basic safety item such as that shouldn’t even be negotiated. An average 600 units of the model are finding their way on to our roads monthly, the majority of them in the hands of inexperienced first-time buyers.
Does anyone see an issue here? I do — and it’s not a positive one from a vehicle safety perspective.