If you were buying a new vehicle, how important is the results from popular crash test assessments? Keeping in mind that every vehicle made by a major automaker in most developed countries are required to adhere to a set of basic safety standards, many of us want to purchase the safest vehicle possible. Inundated by phases such as “Five-Star Rated” and “Top Safety Pick”, car advertisements know what it takes to draw in the safety conscious.
Audi is one of many brands that proudly tout its achievements in safety. Both the 2014 Audi A4 and A6 boasts five-star overall ratings in NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) crash testing. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has recognized the new 2015 Audi A3 sedan as a 2014 Top Safety Pick+ as it gained “Good” ratings in all tests. However, in Europe the sale of safety pertaining to some Audi vehicles has gotten the United Kingdom arm of the German luxury car brand into hot water.
A BBC watchdog investigation has gathered several accounts from customers of Audi dealerships in the United Kingdom where some of the car company’s product line was misidentified as holding the top safety rating of the Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme). A voluntary safety standard within the European Union, Euro NCAP is considered a valued tool for setting a benchmark in crash protection. Testing vehicles using Euro NCAP standards is not required for all vehicles sold in the United Kingdom. The problem spotted by the BBC is dealerships not only misled about the safety rating of vehicles but also the fact a model was tested at all. The Audi R8 and A5 have never been tested under Euro NCAP despite the claims of retail outlets.
The BBC investigation was started when a man named Daniel Jenkins after discovering truth about his Audi R8 after his father was involved in an accident in the car. Told by a local dealer at the time of purchase in 2012 it the R8 passed the Euro NCAP tests with a five-star rating, Jenkins found out that was not the case. The story also reported he had called up 50 Audi dealerships and received the claim from 48 of the sales outlets that the Audi R8 did possess a Five-Star safety rating through Euro NCAP.
The BBC Watchdog expanded on Daniel Jenkins’ original study and inquired about other Audi vehicles through dealerships. Regarding the Audi A5, nine of the ten dealerships approached said the car was tested with Euro NCAP. In fact, no Euro NCAP crash tests have ever been conducted specifically on the Audi A5. Coupled with proving several models were never tested, the BBC Watchdog investigation also kept Audi UK falsely proclaiming their whole vehicle line-up as subjected to Euro NCAP safety testing. According to the Euro NCAP website, the latest Audi vehicle to be tested was the 2012 A3 three-door hatchback (achieving a five-star overall rating as well as four Advanced Rewards with its accident avoidance technology). The Audi A6 sedan also participated in Euro NCAP testing and obtained a five-star rating.
Admitting the claims were not deliberately made to mislead, the Audi UK spokesperson his stated a review is underway to improve the accuracy of claims made related to their vehicles. As of May 15th, the Audi UK website has specifically and accurately identified all the vehicles subjected to Euro NCAP crash testing.
It seems a shame that the United Kingdom entity of Audi has made themselves and their vehicles a subject of this investigation. More than ever due to high-profile mismanagement of safety issues in Toyota and General Motors vehicles in recent years, vehicle safety is an attribute automakers cannot afford to mislead about.
Information and photo source: Audi AG, BBC, Euro NCAP