The head of the Australasian New-Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has reacted angrily to a story questioning the organisation’s approach to its road-safety role in Australia.

    ANCAP is best known for the five-star ratings it gives to the safest cars in showrooms, and has attacked CarExpert over a story questioning its methods and results, describing part of the story as “utterly outrageous”.

    ANCAP Safety’s chief executive officer, Carla Hoorweg, fired a broadside in defence of her organisation.

    “Undermining ANCAP’s important role in educating Australian and New Zealand customers about the importance of vehicle safety in their vehicle purchasing decisions, with factual inaccuracies and ambiguous language is inconsistent with CarExpert’s own commitment to editorial integrity,” Hoorweg said in an email to the CarExpert founders.

    “At a time when the road toll has reached an all-time high, this kind of reporting is inappropriate and insensitive to those people who’ve lost loved ones or been seriously injured on our roads.”

    One of Hoorweg’s chief objections is to the statement that ANCAP has invited journalists to crash tests while knowing that the vehicle to be tested would not do well.

    “ANCAP regularly invites journalists to witness crash tests that have been voluntarily undertaken by manufacturers and these form a large number of the tests we conduct each year,” she said.

    But she does not provide the number of ANCAP tests conducted each year in Australia and the staging of events to spotlight a lacklustre star rating has been questioned again by CarExpert.

    “Every single one of us that has witnessed a crash test has only ever been when they’ve been trying to make an example of a manufacturer,” said Paul Maric, one of the CarExpert founders.

    “There have been a number of us that have watched a crash test and all of them were train wrecks for the manufacturer.”

    The most recent ANCAP test is believed to have been troublesome for the car company involved, although CarExpert cannot reveal any results.

    Although ANCAP welcomed the safety performance of carmakers, it also takes credit for testing done by Euro NCAP without revealing the organisation’s role in the Australian report. So Hoorweg talks about “rating” and not “testing”.

    “Of the cars rated by ANCAP last year, 88 per cent achieved 5-stars and this is due to the commitment shown by manufacturers to reach the highest levels of safety,” she said.

    She also defended the use of ANCAP ratings for OHS policies by companies and government bodies.

    “Business and government fleets have chosen to adopt 5-star fleet policies because they have statutory obligations to provide a safe work environment for their employees.

    “Choosing vehicles with the highest levels of safety, as assessed by an independent body, is a legitimate and appropriate way to satisfy these obligations,” Hoorweg said.

    She denied any shaming by ANCAP in its publicising of test results, despite a significant disparity of the language used by ANCAP and Euro NCAP in their description of test outcomes when vehicles do not achieve a five-star result – a fact reported by CarExpert.

    “ANCAP provides factual information to consumers so that they can make informed decisions about the relative safety of vehicles they may be considering purchasing. The ratings are issued with datestamps so that consumers can clearly identify when the vehicle model was tested and to which year’s protocols,” Hoorweg said.

    Paul Gover

    Paul Gover is one of the most experienced and respected motoring journalists in Australia. After more than 40 years on the automotive beat there is nothing he has not done, yet he still brings the enthusiasm of a rookie. He has worked in print, digital, radio, television and for every major publisher in the country. He is also a national motor racing champion and once co-drove with Peter Brock at Bathurst.

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