ANCAP is claiming safety success with 43 of the 45 cars it assessed in 2016 rating as five-star cars, but why because not all five-star cars are equal…

ANCAP IS CLAIMING a safety win with 43 out of the 45 cars it assessed in 2016 realising a five-star rating. And, in its press release yesterday suggested car buyers looking to buy the safest cars on the market should be looking for either a 2016 or 2017 date stamp.

There are two clear mesages to take away from ANCAP’s latest statement to the media. The first is the great progress towards ever safer cars, for which ANCAP can justly claim some credit.

The second is… how on earth do consumers tell the difference when almost everything is 5 star, and the two that didn’t make it, only just failed, and are 4 star. Yes, there’s “5 star, 20xx” now to denote the year. But no consumers have noticed and fewer still understand why the year is so important, so long has the ‘5-star, 5-star, 5-star’ mantra been hammered home.

And it’s far from the case that all 5 star cars are equal, as the scoring doesn’t properly reflect the range of advanced safety equipment now on offer. There’s also the case of advanced safety equipment being available on only the top-spec model in a range, or occasionally being available on variants sold overseas but not here. As an example of the not-all-five-star-cars-are-equal:


Both the cars above are rated 5-star by ANCAP, yet the Mercedes-Benz offers far more safety features than the much cheaper Swift. That HAS to be clearly reflected in the ratings, something car makers have called for in the past.

If you can’t really figure out what the safest cars on the market are simply by glancing at their ANCAP rating and getting a clear understanding of what they do and don’t offer, and surely that’s the point, then maybe there’s a problem?

Car makers have been critical of ANCAP over the years, with many claiming that their own internal crash testing is more relevant than ANCAP testing. However, car makers are under no obligation to publish the results of their own crash testing.

Locally, brands like Toyota and Holden have all had stoushes with ANCAP via the media, but none more so than Volvo which, in the past, has claimed it’s concerned that some car makers are simply building cars to achieve a five-star ANCAP rating but neglecting real-world safety. Volvo has publicly outlined its commitment than no person should die driving a Volvo from 2020.

Volvo has also, in the past, called on ANCAP to begin properly assessing and taking into consideration advanced safety features, like autonomous emergency braking. A former Volvo boss in 2010 stated, “We applaud everybody’s efforts to make our roads and cars safer but we do get concerned with the current system [ANCAP] because it does intimate that because a car has achieved a five-star rating it is as safe as another car with five stars.

“If there’s a [five-star ANCAP] small car with fewer safety features, I think it begins to mislead the public. So I’m not sure [ANCAP] is giving enough service to the public any more.”

Here at Practical Motoring we believe there is a solution, and we’ve described it here: why and how we should improve ANCAP safety ratings.


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  1. Crashing into a solid barrier, or moving one for that, means nothing unless you’re going to hit a vehicle of the same mass. Simple physics of equal and opposite reactions.

    That’s why when Mercedes introduced the A-Class, it wasn’t tested against some wall or pole only – if it were, it’d be designed to crumple only against other light cars. Instead, it tested it against an E-Class sedan – far more realistic.

  2. Current rating system has lost its relevance. Although the year affix might help it follows logic that all the 43 cant be all equal.

    Not sure if its still the case but cars were being designed to pass frontal crash tests that appeared to leightweight the rear ends leaving rear seat passengers more vulnerable in rear end collisions. Do they do rear end offet crash tests as part of ancap?

    Similarly mearlely having stability control system qualifies the car as 5star when some of those systems are absolute dogs. Enough to put the vehicle on its lid with relative ease.

    The 25% overlap test (which represents many real world crash fatalities) in the US is catching a heap of manufacturers out. The engineering solution that deflects the crash energy whilst undoubtably complex from an engineers computer screen is easy to see in watching a pass car versus a fail.

  3. Overall, safety has improved exponentially – our cars are extremely safe compared with just a few years ago, let alone decades ago.

    Yes, there are differences between brands, models – but worst, in my opinion, versions of models. I think it is iniquitous for a maker to sell 2 almost identical cars – one with Autonomous Emergency Braking, the other without, just because one is a higher specified version. The real injustice is if you purposely select the lower spec version because you want the better car with a real MANUAL gearbox and not a potentially unreliable CVT or DualClutch – and they don’t give you even the option of Autonomous Emergency Braking.

    And car makers/salespeople who try to make a big deal of some factors – I’ve had a couple of cases where salesmen have tried to sell their car because it had 7 airbags. But when you drill into the ANCAP, EURO NCAP, and IIHS results – you find that the extra (knee) airbag was needed on that car to pass – presumably because of a deficiency in it’s structure.

  4. Why bother with ANCAP now that local manufacturing is dead. Let’s adopt UK or Euro standards. Maintaining this regulatory regime is unnecessary and wasteful.

  5. But rich of Volvo given that EuroANCAP picked up an airbag fault in the new XC90 that hundreds of internal crash tests in its development failed to notice. This caused a halt in customer delivieries on MY16 models. Now, there’s another airbag problem in MY17 models.

  6. The system definitely needs to come into the 21st Century. It could be
    seen as cynical to say that most vehicle manufactures will only do the
    minimum they have to do in order to comply with the legislative safety
    requirements of the day. That is so they can sell their products with
    maximum profitability to keep their shareholders happy. Maximum profit
    per vehicle is their key motivator. There are a few exceptions to the
    minimum safety we can get away with rule namely Volvo, the defunct SAAB,
    and Mercedes etal. ANCAP and its associated safety ratings would be
    the proverbial thorn in the side of some of those manufacturers that
    don’t want to innovate in the area of safety but they are forced to if
    they want to sell vehicles. People have been taught and have learned
    well to always look for the ANCAP safety star rating on vehicles but
    some manufactures would love it if people just saw the shiny new alloy
    wheel upgrade that cost zero dollars to implement. So as stated in the
    article above ANCAP has been so successful that we are now at a stage
    where nearly all new vehicles are 5 star rated but are clearly not the
    same. ANCAP is hopefully a mature enough organisation, and not a bunch
    of self opinionated navel gazers, to find the ability to look inward and
    see that they must now subject themselves to the same scrutiny that
    they subject the manufactures to. They must innovate and evolve or
    become a victim of their own success which will see them become as
    irrelevant as their 5 star safety rating. A 6, 7 or even 10 star rating
    is the only way forward and to deny that is to ignore the very reason
    all vehicles, even bottom of the range entry level cars, are so much
    safer today than they were even 5 or 10 years ago. Even my washing
    machine can get up to a 6 star rating so why not my vehicle? Increasing
    the star rating (everyone is familiar with stars so why change) is the
    only way that manufacturers will be, shall we say encouraged, to
    continue to increase safety and to innovate so they have more stars than
    the other brand selling along side them. If only 5 stars remain a lot
    of manufactures will simply wipe their hands of safety innovation and
    say job done we have the maximum by doing the minimum. The perfect
    example of this is the new premium Euro brand V6 dual cab ute that has
    just been released. A so called premium brand and no rear seat occupant
    airbags which is great I suppose if you don’t really like your kids or
    mother in law, but seriously up to a $70K price tag and no rear airbags
    for a brand new 2017 released dual cab 4wd vehicle that is actively
    being targeted at and being purchased by families. A $14K city car even
    gets rear seat airbags. But as ANCAP doesn’t review rear passenger
    safety this vehicle has been released into the market and will probably
    be able to claim 5 start rating. Change has to come within ANCAP to make
    this morally inexcusable behaviour unacceptable by not only this but
    any other manufacturer.

    1. Thanks, mtbrider. There is a proposal in Europe that would force car makers to include active safety features, like, for example, autonomous emergency braking and systems like it on even the entry-level models. When that safety push is mandated, and it will be, Australia should follow suit. Because nothing would motivate car makers like saying you won’t be able to sell a particular car here unless it has every bit of safety equipment fitted to it. It would mean a car sold in Europe, loaded with safety gear, would be sold here in the same spec, rather than only top-spec models, in a lot of cases, being sold here with ‘modern’ active safety features. A body like ANCAP would then have to modernise its scoring system… but, given that ANCAP will fall into line with EuroNCAP this year, it’s almost irrelevant what ANCAP does. – Isaac

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