Chinese automakers are delaying exports to Europe and the US until after 2015, largely because they admit their products aren’t “ready for primetime.” And few issues demonstrate that fact as well as the scandalous crash test videos that have defined internet perceptions of Chinese cars for years now. But with even more recent Chinese export-intenders continuing to put up lousy safety results, Autobild reports that, starting in 2012, China will improve its crash test standards to near-European levels.
Called C-NCAP, the new standard is modeled on EUropean NCAP rules, and raises the bar significantly. For example, Chinese cars will now be crashed at 64 km/h instead of 56 km/h. Anti-whiplash and other active safety measures will also be tested, as will results for rear-seat passengers in addition to front-seat passengers. And in order to include these additional test results, the maximum points available are going up from 51 to 62.
But if China wants to rid itself of its horrible auto safety reputation, regulators can only do so much. The industry also has to develop a culture that outs a high variety on safety. After all, even under the outgoing, lax standards, only 43 Chinese-market models have achieved five star ratings. With standards going up, that number should stagnate or decline until the Chinese automakers get serious about safety. After all, perceptions are huge in the car game, and Chinese brands need to work extra hard to wipe clean a reputation slate that has been marred with shocking crash test results.
And in the end, confronting this challenge is just part of the emergence of the Chinese industry: as Bertel reported, R&D spending at the Chinese OEMs is a fraction of what Western firms spend. With low-cost Chinese labor going the way of the dodo, the Chinese auto industry has to start competing with the Western brands on every possible level. Spending more on safety research and development seems like the logical place to start…