Enough is enough. That’s the tone of David Ward’s letter to Mary Barra, chairman & CEO of the General Motors Company (GM). The secretary general of the Global NCAP wrote to Barra, expressing the automobile safety rating programme’s disappointment that yet another Chevrolet model – the Sail – has been awarded a zero-star rating in the Latin New Car Assessment Programme (Latin NCAP). This disappointing result is a hindrance to Global NCAP’s goal of ensuring that zero-star cars are gone by 2020.

The Sail, which is sold in Colombia, becomes the second Chevrolet model to obtain a zero-star rating in Latin America. In November last year, the Chevrolet Aveo scored a similar rating, prompting Latin NCAP president, Maria Fernanda Rodriguez to pen a letter to GM as well, demanding for safer vehicles. Other zero-star Chevrolet vehicles tested by the Latin NCAP – Spark and Agile – also come without airbags.

In this latest letter to Barra, GM has been ranked by the Latin NCAP as having the worst average star rating of all the major global manufacturers active in the region, according to Ward. To make matters worse, after five years of Latin NCAP’s independent crash tests, GM has yet to achieve a single five-star result unlike its competitors such as Toyota and Volkswagen.

Ward also says that it isn’t for the lack of trying. Calling upon the Aveo as an example, when the car was tested in 2006 by the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), equipped with four airbags, it scored only two stars. Euro NCAP stated that the car’s body shell was unstable and the driver’s chest made contact with the steering wheel resulting in a compression, both of which can result in injury.

In last year’s Latin NCAP test (which uses the same test format as Euro NCAP), the Aveo’s body shell again became unstable and the dummy readings were rated poor for both head and chest. Unlike in Europe, the Aveo in Mexico has no airbags fitted, resulting in an even worse score of zero stars.

Ward went on to say that for at least ten years, GM has known that without any airbags the Aveo, will have a high risk of fatal injury in a frontal crash test at 64 km/h. “So clearly the safety of your customers in Mexico and in other countries in Latin America has been knowingly compromised,” he said.

“GM has chosen to exploit the lack of application of minimum crash test standards in Mexico to provide a version of the car that the company would be unable to sell either in Europe or North America,” claimed Ward.

At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January this year, GM attempted to defend its decision not to make airbags standard in all vehicles sold in Latin America, saying, “in many of those places the technology is available and it’s a customer choice if they want it.” The company also spoke upon harmonising safety standards for all its cars sold globally.


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Further research revealed that the Asociacan Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz a.c. (AMIA) has been lobbying firstly to block and then to delay the Mexican government’s 2014 proposal (up to six years) to introduce minimum crash test standards that, once in force, would make it impossible to sell the Aveo there without airbags.

Ward states that GM was a founding member of the AMIA, where Ernesto M. Hernández Quiroz, the president of GM in Mexico, holds a seat on the organisation’s board. Therefore, GM is not neutral in regards to the Mexico government’s regulations, or unable to say what should be done.

With the United Nations General Assembly set to adopt a new resolution on road safety, where seat belts, airbags and active safety systems are to be fitted as standard, Ward, on behalf of the Global NCAP, has called on GM to take the following steps.

Firstly, GM must globally ensure that from 2018, all production cars sold in Latin America and worldwide pass the minimum UN crash test regulations. Secondly, inform the Mexican government that GM will support legislation for minimum crash test standards and electronic stability control to be applied from 2018.