Double Standards in car safety contributes to high death toll on the roads in Latin America

08 June 2016

Consumer organisations today released a joint report - Safer Cars For Latin America – in Lima Peru, which highlights the disparity of car safety regulations across Latin American countries, and shows global manufacturers continue to make and sell cars in that market which are failing internationally-recognised safety tests and could not be sold in the US and Europe. 

The report highlights that 15 out of 22 car models which have been independently verified as unsafe are being sold to Latin American consumers by leading manufacturers such as General Motors (Chevrolet), Nissan, VW, Fiat, Hyundai and Suzuki. These 15 models are bestsellers across the continent but would never be sold in better regulated markets.

The New Car Assessment Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean (Latin NCAP) carries out independent crash testing and ranks the safety performance of cars sold in the region using a 0-5 star rating system. Five of the 10 top-selling cars in Mexico and Brazil – the largest markets in the region – were given the lowest possible safety ratings of zero or one stars. These cars would not be sold to US or European consumers, and are not fit for Latin American consumers either. For example Chevrolet / General Motors have sold more than 725,787 zero star rated cars. 

Also of concern for consumers are the results of a small qualitative market research project across four countries which highlighted that Latin American consumers are not getting clear and accurate information about the safety of cars they are considering buying, and there is a lack of awareness around what to expect and demand when purchasing a new car.

More than 1.25 million people are killed annually on the world’s roads, and 90 percent of road traffic crash deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. There is a clear link between countries with weak car safety regulations and high death tolls. For example in Peru, which has adopted none of the seven UN regulations, 4.234 people lost their lives in traffic crashes in 2015, a rate of 13.9 deaths per 100,000.

Internationally, there is also evidence of similar double standard practices in India, where car manufacturers continue to make and sell cars which have failed safety crash tests. India however is planning to bring in the UN minimum standard regulations in 2017.

Tamara Meza, Consumers International’s Regional Networker in Chile, said:

“We are calling on Latin American governments to adopt the UN Regulations and to work with consumer organisations on awareness raising campaigns to save lives. We also call on car manufacturers to stop selling cars that have been proven to be unsafe and to voluntarily adopt the UN Regulations. They will need to comply one day soon, we will be pushing governments to regulate, so now is the time to make the change to safer cars.”

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Our View

"The data speaks for itself – there is an unacceptable double standard happening right across Latin America. Consumers' lives are put at risk where government regulations are weak, as manufacturers are capitalising on these gaps in regulations and continue to sell cars they know are unsafe.

"Our report shows cars that would not meet basic crash standards are dominating the top ten selling lists in Latin America. For example three of the top 10 selling cars in Chile in 2015 were zero star cars.  

And it continues to happen. And will continue to happen unless governments adopt the UN Regulations, and manufacturers take responsibility and put the minimum safety features into every single car they produce, regardless of where it is being sold."

Amanda Long, Director General, Consumers International