Ford's Inflatable Seatbelts: Progress or a Bridge Too Far?

John Horner
by John Horner

Media outlets around the globe are regurgitating Ford’s Press Release on its latest safety gizmo: Rear seat air bag seatbelts. Next year’s redesigned Explorer gets the optional new belts first with worldwide rollout expected someday. According to Ford, its all about the children: “The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries.” However, don’t expect moms to flock back to Explorers thanks to the availability of yet another set of air bags. CarMax put out a release recently on their research into women’s car buying priorities. Safety features came in fifth place as mothers’ primary reasons to buy. Price, reliability, fuel economy and spaciousness all beat out safety as the mom’s hot button issues. It doesn’t look like yet more airbags is going to be the thing to get the Explorer back in the hunt.

John Horner
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  • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Nov 07, 2009

    Kid-sized race harness and competition fitted seats would do away with this problem. No better protection in any roll-over SUV.

  • John Horner John Horner on Nov 07, 2009

    "When you see and understand more about the new Explorer, you will see that it will attract different customers than the Flex. At the end of the day, it will come to to a matter of choice. We are trying to give customers as much choice as we can whilst being prudent in our offerings where appropriate." Reading between the lines, it sounds like Explorer and Flex will share the same platform, be about the same size, be similarly priced and will be in the same showrooms; but with different target customers. That strategy has a very mixed track record. The differences had better be much more substantial than the target customer profile, advertising and branding charades companies often try in these circumstances. I will say that my friends who own current generation Explorers love the vehicle. But to keep them happy, the new one had better be able to pull a small horse trailer as well as the existing Explorer.

  • John Horner John Horner on Nov 07, 2009

    joe_thousandaire : I understand your point, and personally agree that engineering progress is a good thing. Looked at another way, you could read my opening bit here as a dig at the moms CarMax surveyed. It will be very interesting to see what the take rate is on this optional new belt. Since it will be an option, hopefully Ford will make it widely available on all trim levels instead of trying to use it as a lever to get customers to buy up into the highest trim level vehicles. Auto makers have often played that game.

  • Greg Locock Greg Locock on Nov 08, 2009

    Telegraph Road : "Both Ford and Lexus are introducing this safety feature. With no access to their safety engineering test data, I don’t know how any of us can possibly assess the validity of their safety claims." Welcome to Al Gore's Internet. If only the automotive OEMs had the wit to hire TTAC's commentators they wouldn't need computers or fancy test circuits and labs.