Why do bakkies for Africa differ from European models?

Alarming differences in the safety of two Nissan bakkies, one available in Africa and the other produced for the European market, have been exposed in a first-of-its-kind car-to-car crash test by the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP).

The results have prompted Global NCAP, the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) and the FIA Foundation in the UK to question whether there are double standards for vehicles in the African and European markets.

Read: Is your vehicle road safe?

The FIA Foundation is an independent registered charity that supports an international programme of activities promoting road safety, the environment and sustainable mobility.

In the test, Global NCAP crashed the 2019 Nissan NP300 Hardbody, the best-selling pick up model in Africa, into a second-hand Nissan Navara NP300 manufactured in Europe in 2015.

Global NCAP CEO and president David Ward said this was a very dramatic car-to-car crash test that uniquely illustrates the double standard.

He added that the difference in crashworthiness is extraordinary.

“The new Nissan Hardbody performs significantly worse than the second-hand Nissan Navara, to the extent that the driver in the new African Nissan would likely have died from their injuries but the driver [in] the second-hand European Nissan would have walked away.

“A new car in Africa is not necessarily a safer car. Second-hand imported cars from regions with tougher regulatory requirements for safety, and environmental performance, can offer consumers much greater protection. ”  

Watch the crash test film here: https://youtu.be/RFt_dA4vZBY.

Responding to a request for comment on the crash test results, Nissan South Africa executive director corporate affairs Wonga Mesatywa said Nissan’s number one priority is the safety of its customers.

“We are committed to the highest safety standards in every single market where we operate, without exception.

“The locally produced NP300 Hardbody meets all safety regulations within Africa, where it has built a strong reputation over many years for reliability and customer satisfaction.

“Nissan continues to introduce advanced safety technologies and features into our global product range, including Africa, and we actively encourage and support  advancements in safety regulations and requirements for the benefit of our customers,” he said.

A matter of life and death

But Global NCAP said the difference in safety performance between the new African model and the second-hand European version is a matter of life and death.

It said the crash test dummy driver in the new African Nissan will have likely sustained fatal injuries while the driver of the equivalent second-hand European model would have likely walked away from the crash. Global NCAP said the second-hand European car is fitted with the lifesaving crash avoidance anti-skid system, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), while the new African version is not fitted with these systems.

The results of the test were released to coincide with this week’s 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Sweden, where both of the crashed vehicles will be on public display as part of the ‘People’s Exhibition’ in Stockholm Central Railway Station.

Zeroes stars for safety

The Nissan NP300 was previously tested by Global NCAP in 2018 as part of the #SaferCarsForAfrica campaign and received a zero-star safety rating.

The vehicle structure collapsed and was found to be unstable during the test, with Global NCAP stating that the high forces placed on the crash test dummy pose a significant risk of fatal injury. 

The NP300’s bodyshell was so unstable that the airbags were ineffective, it said.

The Nissan Navara NP300 was previously tested by Euro NCAP in 2015 and achieved a four-star adult occupant rating.

AA CEO Willem Groenewald said on Tuesday that these results are extremely worrying and point to a major deficiency in the quality of vehicles available in Africa.

Groenewald said the AA has for a long time been concerned that vehicles available in Africa are inferior to those in other markets, such as Europe and Asia, and these results seem to confirm that concern.

‘Complete disdain’

“What this car-to-car crash also demonstrates is a complete disdain for African vehicle consumers and their safety [in the interests] of profit.

“It also again highlights the need for stricter regulation of standards and tougher controls in terms of allowing these inferior vehicles onto African roads,” he said.

Groenewald added that the AA endorses Ward’s sentiments that higher safety-rated second-hand vehicles are a better option than lower-rated new vehicles, especially in light of these poor results, which clearly show the devastating impact on families and society of inferior models that are sold in Africa.

In the words of FIA Foundation executive director Saul Billingsley:

“Does Nissan believe an African life is worth less than a European life?”

He added: “If not, how does the company explain the shocking safety gap between these two vehicles demonstrated by Global NCAP?

“If we are to meet the 2030 target of halving road deaths we must stamp out this kind of unethical behaviour by some in the car industry,” he said.

Read: Road Accident Fund hits the wall

The AA in July last year released its latest Entry-Level Vehicle Safety Report, which found that only four of 27 entry level vehicles in South Africa tested had safety affordability levels that were regarded as acceptable.

The AA is involved in an initiative with Global NCAP to provide consumers with information to enable them to make better purchasing choices.

The association confirmed in November 2018 that it is engaging with the Department of Transport in a bid to get the safety ratings of all vehicles sold in the country displayed on vehicles in dealer showrooms.