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In a recent survey, almost 75% of prospective new car owners stated their purchase decision would be influenced by whether a car has been crash-tested and safety rated.

81% of these prospective buyers said the ratings of vehicles would also influence their decision if they were presented with two similar vehicles with different safety ratings. The survey – which polled more than 650 people – comes after the launch last year of #SaferCarsforAfrica, the first independent crash test assessment by Global NCAP and the AA. NCAP stands for New Car Assessment Programme and assesses the crashworthiness of new vehicles.

The results last year focussed on the crash test assessments of five of South Africa’s popular compact and small cars. The crashworthiness results of the five cars tested showed a wide range of safety performance, from four to zero stars for adult protection, with the lowest ratings resulting in a high probability of life-threatening injury in a road crash.

The models tested include South Africa’s best-selling car, the VW Polo Vivo. The Datsun Go+, Toyota Etios, Renault Sandero and Chery QQ3 also underwent the safety assessment. Combined sales of these five cars account for around 65% of all the new cars sold in South Africa in 2016.

The survey found that despite the fact that around 86% of respondents are not yet aware of the crash test results for South Africa, 81% of them say their decisions to buy will be influenced by different safety ratings. In addition, 83% of people say having a safety rating on every vehicle sold in the country will help them decide on which vehicle to purchase.

Another important result from the survey is that more than 91% of respondents say there should be minimum safety equipment standards including ABS, ESC and airbags on all new vehicles sold in South Africa, which, if fitted as standard to all new cars, will add very little to the retail price of new vehicles.

These results are incredibly important because they point to a worldwide trend among buyers to opt for safer vehicles. Almost 90% of the respondents also believe it should be compulsory for safety ratings to be displayed on vehicles at the point of sale, another sign that local buyers are becoming increasingly aware of the safety of the vehicles they are driving.

Manufacturers will be wise to realise the growing trend for safer vehicles locally, as this will play a gradually more important role in buying decisions in the future. Buyers are no longer swayed by the extras available on vehicles such as Bluetooth features, or the trim on a car; more and more are looking at how the vehicle will hold up in a crash, and, importantly, how safe their passengers will be in such an event.

It is critical that government legislates that minimum safety standards are applied to new vehicles and that they must carry vehicle safety ratings at the point of sale, making it easier for buyers to assess the safety of vehicles, and to use this information in making their decision.

Given South Africa’s high road fatality rate, and low vehicle insurance take-up among motorists, safer vehicles are no longer an option but a necessity. Prospective new vehicle owners must do their homework on the vehicles they are considering buying, with a key factor being the safety rating it receives.

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