Car safety tests manage to confuse

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Car safety tests manage to confuse

Last Friday, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs revealed the results of the Korean New Car Assessment Program (KNCAP) on 11 models released this year.

The Santa Fe, a mid-sized SUV by Hyundai Motor, won the top score of 103 points in five crash tests: a frontal-impact test, offset test, side-impact test, side-impact pole test and seat safety (rear-impact) test.

GM Korea’s Malibu, a mid-sized sedan, came in second with 102.4 points followed by Kia Motor’s K9, a full-size luxury sedan, at 101.5.

This year’s test, which was conducted by the Korea Transportation Safety Authority, included three foreign-made vehicles - Toyota’s Camry, the BMW 320d, and the Volkswagen CC. These models are among the top 10 best selling imported cars of this year, according to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

Surprisingly, these foreign models scored poorly compared to local models. Camry received the highest scores among the three with 100 points, while the 320d got 97.2 and the CC earned 92.6.

The online auto community has been debating whether local cars have surpassed imported cars. Even so, it was a puzzle that these well-known foreign cars performed worse than local cars on the Korean test - although they have been earning good grades in other countries’ tests.

An official from the Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute said that the reason why foreign cars scored poorly is that they’re designed to pass safety tests in the U.S. or Europe rather than the KNCAP.

Under the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP), the BMW 320d earned a “good” rating on the rear impact (whiplash) test, while the Santa Fe got a “marginal” grade. In the KNCAP, Santa Fe received 5.7 points, easily beating the 320d’s 4.6.

For car buyers, these contradictory crash test results may confuse rather than help in their selection of cars. How can the same car score well in one country and badly in another?

Crash test results might differ from country to country as each has different criteria. But for automakers, their goal should be making safe cars regardless of which tests they are given. After all, the real purpose of crash tests anywhere in the world is to lead all automakers to build better cars in the future.

by Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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