Australian crash safety chief to head up global watchdog

Ford Mustang frontal impact_main

A CAR safety advocate who helped Australia become the world’s toughest regime for crash test ratings has now taken the top global role for the same job.

Lachlan McIntosh, who headed the Australiasian New Car Assessment Program for more than 20 years, was announced overnight as the replacement for former global motorsport chief Max Mosley as head of the worldwide independent crash safety watchdog, the Global New Car Assessment Program.

“I am very honoured to be elected as Global NCAP’s new chairman,” McIntosh said in a statement. “Global NCAP’s work has fundamentally changed vehicle safety worldwide, I’ve been proud to be part of that work as a member of the board of trustees and look forward to continuing to do so as chairman.”

Lachlan McIntoshUnder McIntosh’s stewardship, Australia was the first independent crash test authority worldwide to make head-protecting side curtain airbags mandatory for a five-star rating. However, it has since dropped the ruling to align itself with the European New Car Assessment Program’s more relaxed guidelines that do not require a car to have the potentially life-saving feature fitted.

Australia is gradually aligning its crash testing procedures with its European cousin as part of a three-year program that has been widely criticised as compromising on safety.

Under the new rules planned for Australia, the crashworthiness of a car will be assessed on the best-selling model and the score applied to all the vehicles in the range, even if entry-level models lack the active safety features fitted to their more expensive versions. Australia’s current regime of assessing each variant independently means that we have a split rating system – the Ford Focus is a five-star car, but because the RS-badged version lacks side airbags because it is fitted with different sports seats, it is unrated.

The slow switch to the EuroNCAP criteria also hurt Holden’s crash test rating for the European-sourced Astra hatch, with the base model unrated because it lacked the standard safety gear fitted to more expensive versions. In contrast, the Korean-sourced Chevrolet Cruze sedan, badged here as an Astra, has no driver assist systems available, yet gained a range-wide five-star rating.

The alignment with EuroNCAP has also tainted the Ford Mustang, hit with a two-star crash test rating after it was marked down on pedestrian protection and the safety of its rear seats, as well as its lack of driver assist technologies. The pony car has since had its score bumped to three stars after a re-test. Citroen even delayed the entry of its Cactus small SUV to Australia so that it would carry a Euro NCAP five-star rating under the new set of rules rather than be marked down to a four-star ANCAP rating under the old ones.

Australia will fully align with the Euro NCAP standards from next year.

Global NCAP, a registered charity, is focusing its efforts on improving crash safety in developing economies such as India and South America. In 2015 it controversially hit back at media reports critical of Australia’s change to the more relaxed crash test framework, saying it was “baffled” by the negative comments. McIntosh was a board member of Global NCAP at the time.

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