Last year Datsun took a lot of flak from the motoring community, and rightly so – after all, they released the GO to the Indian and South African markets and it was subsequently proven in Global NCAP testing that the GO was highly unsafe; not just because of the lack of airbags, but because it had a body structure that crumbled under impact negating any effect airbags may have had. The president of Global NCAP even wrote a letter to the CEO of Nissan advising that the GO be re-engineered for better structural rigidity in an effort to make the vehicle safer.
But Nissan remained quiet on the matter, and Datsun representatives punted that the GO was a safe vehicle, despite the evidence. It seems they’ve made an about turn though – quietly deciding that the GO is in fact not the safest it could be. The Guardian has reported that Datsun are going to be strengthening the body shell of the GO, as well as fitting airbags to the budget hatchback.
This victory for Global NCAP comes after a huge fuss was made over the whole ordeal and over safety in general – including a major report calling for urgent action on all vehicle safety. Global NCAP chairman, Max Mosley, highlighted that crash-test standards introduced 20 years ago for cars sold in Europe are still not met by many new cars sold in middle income markets such as Brazil, India, and South Africa. “This is entirely unacceptable. Manufacturers cannot continue to treat millions of their customers as second-class citizens when it comes to life-saving standards of occupant protection.” Max has stated.
According to the report in The Guardian, 10 companies produce 80% of all cars worldwide and they all know how to ensure vehicles pass safety tests. David Ward, CEO of Global NCAP has said the car industry tends to exaggerate the cost of safety improvements, and that the estimated cost of fitting two front airbags to the shell of the Datsun GO would only cost around $200 (R2400). He said that even customers on a tight budget would be willing to pay extra to avoid the risk of death – a notion which we wholeheartedly support, especially when the cost is spread over a typical 60 month payment term.
“These decisions are entirely driven by budget,” he said. “There is a disconnect between the engineers who are trying to do their best and the financial people who try to save money by cutting back on safety features. This is what happens without a proper regulatory framework.”
Ward says he has met with the head of the Datsun brand, and will be meeting with Nissan executives in May to urge them to test the newly strengthened model before it goes on sale to the public. Until then, Global NCAP stands by their statement that Nissan should suspend sales of the GO globally – however Nissan seems to have decided profits are more important as the vehicle is still on sale in several markets.
A spokesperson from Nissan has said,” As a company, we invest in continuous product and model line-up enhancement taking into account market trends and customers’ requirements. As part of ongoing product development we will offer driver’s airbag as an option for Datsun GO+ and Datsun GO in India. Some technical evolution of the base car will also be implemented across the line-up to ensure efficient airbag performance.”
Whilst we eagerly await the strengthened GO and its NCAP test results, we don’t yet know when the revised vehicle will reach South African shores, or what the implications will be on the pricing of the GO. Until now, Datsun has been selling the GO for less than the R100 000 mark, a key selling point for the brand – but the reinforced structure and additional safety equipment may well see the price rise above that mark.
Whilst the victory is a huge one for safety standards, especially those of first time buyers, there is still a long way to go in terms of public perception, and the way the public are handled by manufacturers. Datsun representatives in South Africa at dealership level have been quick to try and cover up the idea that the GO is unsafe, while Datsun’s social media teams have blocked members of the public who have demanded answers relating to the safety of the GO. Such behaviour clearly displays the attitude that profits means more than safety, and as such need to be addressed.
As proud advocates of basic vehicle safety, we’re glad to see Global NCAP has won this battle against Datsun. We can only hope that other manufacturers take note in future and make sure basic safety standards are met.