Discord over zero-star Mitsubishi Express ANCAP rating

By: David Bonnici


Rebadged three-star Renault Trafic test prompts FCAI consistency calls

Discord over zero-star Mitsubishi Express ANCAP rating
Among the results was a 7 per cent safety assist score

 

The 2021 Mitsubishi Express van has made history by being the first vehicle to score a zero-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating.

The Express, popular with tradies and commercial fleets, failed to earn a single star because of the absence of active safety systems such as autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning.

It also delivered "marginal performance" in physical crash tests and "lacks basic safety features that consumers have come to expect in a newly released model", according to independent crash-testing body ANCAP.

Mitsubishi Australia reintroduced the Express nameplate in 2020 after a seven-year hiatus. However, instead of bringing an all-new van, it rebadged the ageing Renault Trafic – Mitsubishi is able to do this because it is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi strategic alliance.

The Renault Trafic had received a three-star EuroNCAP rating in 2015, before such testing took active safety features into account. It still holds that rating in Europe.


How Mitsubishi lifted the curtains on the new Express, here


A Mitsubishi Australia spokesperson tells ATN sister site WhichCar the Express was designed in accordance with the 2015 NCAP protocols but was tested to ANCAP’s stringent 2020 testing regime, which places importance on technology that was unavailable in such vehicles six years ago.

"Compared to competitor peers of a similar age, the vehicle holds a competitive position in terms of NCAP rating," the spokesperson says.

"It holds a three-star (2015) rating in Europe, ANCAP did not report NCAP’s earlier rating."

"The technology included in the vehicle reflects the lifecycle cycle of commercial vehicles, which is generally eight years or more."

However, ANCAP chief executive Carla Hoorweg says the Express’s specifications do not align with today’s safety expectations.

She adds that while ANCAP often awards ratings solely based on EuroNCAP scores, the Trafic commercial van remained unrated in Australia as the European testing applied specifically to mini-van versions.

And even if the Renault Trafic van earned three stars here, ANCAP does not carry over vehicle ratings across brands, which is why the Mitsubishi Express was deemed an all-new vehicle and subject to the latest ANCAP testing regime.

But the zero-star rating could seem harsh considering that, as the Mitsubishi spokesperson points out: "The Express meets all Australian Design Rules (ADR) standards for vans, and the results of the crash testing by ANCAP indicates a good level of occupant protection."

Hoorweg disagrees: "Unfortunately we saw below par performance for protection of occupants and vulnerable road users from the Express, with results lowered even further due to a fundamental lack of active safety systems."

ANCAP’s technical report, which the safety body initiated and funded without Mitsubishi’s involvement, found "physical crash performance of the Express was marginal in areas, with notable risk of serious injury to the chest of the driver in three of the four destructive crash tests (frontal offset, full width frontal and oblique pole tests)".

While ANCAP recognised the zero-star rating will have a dramatic impact on Mitsubishi Express sales – it will become ineligible for purchase by a wide range of fleet and commercial buyers – it remained unapologetic.

"The Express’s poor result sends a clear signal to manufacturers and their global parent companies that safety must be prioritised in all segments offered to the Australasian market," Hoorweg says.

"Safety rating criteria and consumer expectations have evolved, as have manufacturers’ desire and ability to introduce improved levels of safety.

"We know Mitsubishi can deliver vehicles with high levels of overall safety and a wide range of modern safety technologies, and we encourage them to accelerate the introduction of these features into their van product."

Interestingly, the previous model Express had been removed from sale in Australia in 2013 because of safety concerns.

Mitsubishi Australia stated at the time that it "flew in the face of the company’s philosophy on crash safety".

"The reason behind the decision is that we are focussing our product strategy on safety features, and we’re trying to achieve five-star across the range," Mitsubishi said in 2013.

The zero-star 2021 Mitsubishi Express ANCAP rating applies to all variants introduced in Australia from June 2020 and in New Zealand from October 2020, which includes short- and long-wheelbase versions with either the 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre diesel engine.

MORE VANS UNDER ANCAP’S SPOTLIGHT

While this is bad news for Mitsubishi, ANCAP has been at pains to point out that there are several vans on the market that carry safety ratings from as far back as 2011 that may not fare any better than the Express if they were tested today.

In December 2020, the organisation declared it could no longer recommend vans that were still available with minimal active safety systems, including the Express, Hyundai iLoad, Renault Trafic, Renault Master and Iveco Daily.

MITSUBISHI EXPRESS ANCAP TEST KEY POINTS

PHOTO-w-LOGO---Mitsubishi-Express-(frontal-offset)-A.jpg

The Mitsubishi Express achieved the following scores in key areas:

  • Safety assist – 7.0 per cent
  • Adult occupation protection – 55 per cent
  • Vulnerable road-user protection – 40 per cent
  • Child safety protection – N/A

AIRBAGS

The Mitsubishi Express is fitted with dual frontal and side head-protecting (curtain) airbags are standard. A side chest-protecting airbag is also standard for the driver only. The Mitsubishi Express has three front-row seating positions.

Chest protection is not provided for the front row passengers. A centre airbag to prevent occupant-to-occupant interaction is also not available, nor is a frontal airbag for the centre passenger seating position.

SAFETY ASSIST FEATURES

The Mitsubishi Express is fitted with a manual speed limiter and seatbelt reminder (driver only), however important active safety systems including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) capable of detecting and preventing collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists is not available. An active lane support system (LSS) is also not available on any variant.

VULNERABLE ROAD USER PROTECTION

The protection provided by the bonnet of the Mitsubishi Express to the head of a struck pedestrian was predominantly adequate, with weak and poor results recorded at the rear and sides of the bonnet and on the stiff windscreen pillars.

Protection of the pelvis was mixed, with areas of good to marginal performance. Protection to pedestrians’ legs provided by the bumper was also mixed with areas of good to weak performance.

FCAI RESPONSE

The rating caught the attention of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the peak industry organisation representing the manufacturers and importers of passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles and motorcycles in Australia.

It calls in to question ANCAP's motive for re-testing vehicles in Australia.

"The Australian automotive industry continues to work with governments and others towards harmonisation with international standards with respect to vehicle regulation in many areas including safety, emissions control and theft reduction," FCAI chief executive Tony Weber says. 

"Euro NCAP and ANCAP claim they are effectively harmonised, however, this is not reflected in ANCAP’s actions.

"Alignment with global standards is the best way of ensuring Australians can have the highest vehicle design standards at the lowest possible prices.

"Why is ANCAP spending potentially up to $500,000, which includes taxpayer dollars, to undertake a test on a six-year-old vehicle that has already been assessed by its sister organisation Euro NCAP in 2015?"

"It makes no sense, can send a confused message to Australian car buyers and is not the best use of taxpayer funds."

FCAI notes the Australian vehicle buyer will understandably be confused at the two different ratings for essentially the same vehicle. 

 

"It serves no purpose for the customer and it serves no purpose to the industry," Weber says.

"Safe vehicles on our roads must be a priority for everyone in our industry, including ANCAP. 

"Surely, there is no debating that point. 

"Rather than seeking a headline, ANCAP would better serve the Australian public by seeking a harmonised adoption of the test and measurement protocols as well as consumer messaging. 

"This ensures consistency and clarity for everyone concerned."

 

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