Euro NCAP’s tough crash safety tests were launched 20 years ago last week. It has published over 630 safety ratings and crash-tested some 1,800 cars during this time.
The first tests exposed safety failings in top-selling family cars, forcing a fundamental rethink in the way vehicles were designed to prevent accidents and save lives. Twenty years on, 9 out of 10 cars sold on the European market hold a Euro NCAP rating and the motor industry actively supports the development of new requirements for the top safety ratings.
Secretary General, Michiel van Ratingen had the following to say: “Euro NCAP has given millions of consumers the knowledge and confidence to choose the safest cars possible. Recent years have shown a slowdown in the progress rate, however, so we mustn’t take our foot off the gas. We want to ensure that Europe’s roads get even safer in the next 20 years, not just for car occupants but for all participants in traffic. We already test many more aspects of a car’s safety than we did when we started in 1997, and that is set to continue. Next year, we will test systems that recognise and avoid crashes with cyclists, and we’re lining up a very challenging roadmap for 2020 to 2025.”
Euro NCAP’s programme was the first time that realistic, like-for-like tests had been conducted in Europe by independent experts, and the results sparked outrage from consumer groups, members of the public and the media.
In the first round of tests, of seven popular ‘supermini’ sized cars, the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo each achieved three stars out of the then-maximum of four, based on protection levels offered to adult occupants.
The top-selling Rover 100 achieved only one star while the Fiat Punto, Nissan Micra, Opel/Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio achieved only two stars. When pedestrian protection was assessed, not one vehicle scored more than two points, suggesting manufacturers were not designing cars with vulnerable road users in mind.
Leading car manufacturers attacked the tests, claiming they were so severe that it was ‘impossible’ for a car to achieve four stars. Five months later, however, Volvo’s S40 became the first four-star car for occupant protection.
Max Mosley, the first Chairman of Euro NCAP and Chairman of Global NCAP said: “Twenty years on from what started as a controversial programme, rejected by manufacturers, and supposedly aiming for unrealistic safety standards, Euro NCAP is now firmly part of the automotive mainstream. Thousands of fatalities have been prevented, consumer demand for safety is high, manufacturers compete on safety rating results, and vehicle safety standards continue to improve.”