Demio and Swift on chopping block in confusing 'unsafe' used import ban
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Calls for a ban on 'unsafe' used imports to be banned from entering the New Zealand market are gathering momentum, following today's declaration of support from the Motor Industry Association.
“We have a huge number of used vehicles coming through our ports that do not meet modern safety standards of New Zealand-new vehicles," says MIA Chief executive David Crawford.
Unsafe, in theory anyway, is reference to the potential move to ban cars that only have a one or two-star safety rating — a push that was one of the top five priorities of the Vehicle. Vehicle Standards and Certification Reference Group. They're one of five groups who are advising the government on its new road safety strategy.
But, those looking for a finite definition of 'unsafe' are unlikely to find one.
Cars that are have been reported on as vulnerable to the ban include all models of Mazda Demio, pre-2016 Suzuki Swifts, and pre-2008 Toyota Corollas. But, the Demio (in its 'Mazda 2' guise) scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2008 and 2012 (plus a four-star rating in 2010), and the Swift scored a four-star and five-star rating in 2008 and 2012, respectively. The Corolla, meanwhile, has never strayed from either four or five stars in ANCAP tests dating all the way back to 2006.
And most of those figures are replicated in Euro NCAP results, too.
Of course, most of these cars would struggle to replicate those results in today's more stringent and tech-focused ANCAP testing. And, cars imported from Japan sometimes have different safety specifications compared to those that undergo NCAP and ANCAP testing. But, old tests versus new tests or Japanese-unique safety specification isn't something publicly addressed by either the MIA or the VVSCRG.
"I don't know who's cooking this all up, but this is absolute nonsense," said Peter Johnston, owner of GVI Imports, in an interview with RNZ.
"You know, if we come back to the road toll, the road toll is more about driver error. [...] As far as vehicles go, our vehicles have improved. If you go back 20 years ago, before Japanese imports, we had a lot of very unsafe cars on the road.
"But with the advent of Japanese imports, the cars became a lot safer, they had airbags, they've got power steering, air-conditioning, they're a lot better quality car."
Should a ban on low safety-rating cars come to fruition, it would compliment the upcoming ban of bringing in cars that don't come equipped with electronic stability control (ESC).
“ESC can reduce the risk of crashing due to loss of control by 30 percent and has been hailed as the biggest step towards reducing serious injuries and fatalities since the compulsory wearing of seatbelts," Crawford added.
“Despite this technology being in place for more than a decade now, New Zealand is still importing old unsafe vehicles without this important safety feature. We’ve effectively been a disposal bin for other countries’ old bangers for many years now.”
Update: one of the systems being utilised to gauge the safety of various cars is Used Car Safety Ratings. While NCAP and ANCAP test results are constructed using scientific means, UCSR ratings are put together based in part on data from local crashes.
The Used Car Safety Ratings score of a 2011–2016 Suzuki Swift is one star, compared to the five the model received in ANCAP tests. Ironically, the previous-generation Swift (2006–2010) has a superior two-star Used Car Safety Rating, despite it having one less airbag.