Quadricycle safety in the spotlight
06 Apr 2016
New safety ratings for ‘quadricycles’, released by the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), have revealed serious safety shortcomings concerning this category of four-wheeled vehicle. Despite often closely resembling small cars, in most countries quadricycles are not subject to same safety standards. Concerns that many consumers are unaware they are purchasing unsafe vehicles have led to calls for a total regulatory re-think.
‘Quadricycles’ are commonly understood to be low cost, light-weight, four-wheeled vehicles, with restrictions on weight, engine size and top speed. Full-body quadricycles tend to look very similar to small cars to the casual observer, and often come equipped with heaters, radios and other accessories that one would expect to find in cars.
However, they do not come fitted with even the most basic safety features that are required in similar-sized cars, such as air bags, and provide significantly less structural integrity.
Euro NCAP crash tested four quadricycle models: Aixam Crossover GTR, Bajaj Qute, Chatenet CH30 and Microcar M.GO Family. None of the models tested performed well, with only the Chatenet CH30 achieving two out of a possible five stars. The other three quadricycles were awarded a one star rating. These results build on previous Euro NCAP tests in 2014, which found that a further four models – Club Car Villager 2+2 LSV, Ligier IXO JS Line 4, Renault Twizzy and Tazzari ZERO – also provide a poor level of safety, with two of these models receiving zero stars.
Safety must be prioritised
Euro NCAP’s latest crash tests are in response to increasing numbers of quadricycles in the European market, and the implementation of updated European safety regulations. Despite meeting the minimum legal safety requirements, the test results make it clear that quadricycles offer very low protection in the event of a crash.
Concerned that consumers will purchase quadricycles in the mistaken belief that they are safe, Euro NCAP Secretary General, Dr Michiel van Ratingen, called for action from manufacturers and policy makers in Europe:
"By not challenging the manufacturers to do more, legislators continue to give a false impression to consumers that these vehicles are fit for purpose"
He continued: "Simple design changes could lead to significant improvements, with little added weight or cost. Pursuing an environmental agenda is not an excuse for unsafe vehicles. Therefore Euro NCAP again calls for safety to be prioritised for heavy quadricycles.’’
A global challenge
Although currently most prevalent in Europe, interest in quadricycles is growing elsewhere in the world, particularly in emerging economies such as India. The 'Bajaj Qute', which received one out of five stars in Euro NCAP’s recent test, is the first Indian-made quadricycle. Despite being launched in 2015, the Qute is yet to hit the roads due to legal challenges which have been mounted over concerns that new Indian safety regulations for quadricycles are not strong enough.
Consumers International (CI) Members including: Consumer Voice, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), Consumer Education Research Society (CERS) and Consumers Association of India will be writing to Bajaj Auto Ltd to express their concerns at the Qute’s poor crash test performance, and misleading claims made about the Qute’s safety during the company’s recent publicity campaign to “Free the Qute”.
With the potential for sales of quadricycles to increase around the world, it is clear that safety concerns should also be addressed at the global level, as they are for other categories of vehicle.
CI is joining Euro NCAP and Global NCAP in calling for the UN World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations, the body which establishes global minimum safety standards, to take urgent action to strengthen the regulation of quadricycles.
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