Thursday, 30 June 2016

Safer Cars for Latin America – The campaign so far

Roundtable participants, including the Vice-Minister for the Environment, Transport Minister, representatives from the State Consumer Protection Agency, AA Peru, ASPEC, CI and El Poder.

Since early 2016, the Bloomberg Philanthropies car safety team at Consumers International (CI) has been working in partnership with consumer groups across Latin America on a regional campaign for safer cars. From our initial campaign planning workshop in Santiago in January, to our recent campaign report launch in Lima, great strides have been made to pressure Latin American governments to tighten up car safety regulation, call out manufacturers for applying double standards on safety, and to raise awareness amongst consumers.

What is the problem?

Each year 1.25 million people die on the roads globally with 74% of these deaths occurring in middle-income countries, such as Peru or Mexico. Road deaths in Latin America stand at 17 per 100,000 people, whereas in high-income countries, the figure is 8.7 per 100,000 people.

The United Nations (UN) has a system of minimum regulations to protect car occupants and other road users when crashes occur, such as seat belts, airbags and active safety systems.

Sadly, no Latin America government, other than Ecuador, is currently anywhere near fulfilling these standards. However, in the USA, or anywhere in Europe, or in Japan, or Australia – these standards are rigorously observed.

As a result, manufacturers, such as GM/Chevrolet, Nissan, Fiat, Volkswagen, Suzuki and Hyundai are producing cars for Latin American consumers with minimal or no safety features. This double standard is causing thousands of preventable deaths on Latin American roads.

Consumer groups pushing for change 

Improving car safety in Latin America is a goal that has united CI Member organisations in Latin America to work together on a regional advocacy campaign, sharing resources and expertise and applying these to pressure for change and support consumers to make more informed choices in their own countries.  For example:

Enrique Prado from the Automobile Association of Peru, Crisologo Caceres from ASPEC, Tamara Meza from CI and Stephan Brodziak from El Poder pose after the press conference
  • El Poder del Consumidor in Mexico is pushing for legislative change, exposing the double standards of manufacturers such as GM/Chevrolet and Nissan and developing great consumer materials to raise awareness of unsafe cars being sold in Mexico.
  • ASPEC in Peru has set up a multi-sectoral platform involving civil society, government ministries and car industry representatives to push for improved legislation in Peru. It is also raising consumer awareness through its daily radio shows broadcast throughout Peru.
  • ODECU in Chile were keynote speakers at the recent Stop the Crash press conference and activity in Santiago to highlight key crash avoidance technologies such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), and recently had a face-to-face meeting with Minister of Transport regarding improving car safety regulation.
  • Union of Users and Consumers in Argentina have featured on national TV in Argentina calling on consumers to prioritise safety features when they buy a car and has been actively supporting Latin NCAP and highlighting misleading advertising by car manufacturers.
  • Proteste in Brazil has been actively campaigning for the Brazilian government to bring forward the introduction of ESC, which is a potentially life-saving technology that prevents cars from skidding. They achieved widespread national coverage at their press day on ESC in March 2016.

CI report on car safety makes headline news

CI Regional Networker Tamara Meza and Stephan Brodziak from El Poder del Consumidor in Mexico giving interviews

Our most recent campaign highlight was the launch of our campaign report on car safety in Latin America in Lima in Peru in early June. Our report showed the scale of unsafe cars being sold in Latin America, and the poor quality information being provided to consumers about safety and has received some great press coverage. Our research highlighted that:
  • Cars rated with zero or one stars by the New Car Assessment Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean (Latin NCAP) were best selling cars across Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil from 2012-2015
  • Fifteen of the 22 cars tested by Latin NCAP and rated with zero or one stars are still being sold to in Latin America. In Peru - 10 models were available, in Chile - 9 models, Mexico – 5 models and Argentina – 4 models. Brazil has just one model available
  • Latin NCAP have stated that car occupants in such cars would have little chance of surviving a crash at 64 km per hour
  • GM/Chevrolet is the leading manufacturer of zero star cars in Latin America with best-selling zero star cars in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico from 2012-2015. That is at least 700,000 Chevrolet cars that would not be allowed on US roads.

And our qualitative mystery shopping study discovered that:
  • In some cases car dealerships were unable to provide basic safety information to consumers, and instances of citing inaccurate information about car safety, such as saying the addition of two airbags will solve the poor safety performance of a zero star car.
Following the press launch, which has received widespread media coverage, a round table was held with participation from the Vice-Minister for the Environment, Transport Minister, State Ombudsman, State Consumer Protection Agency and Automobile Association of Peru. A multisector platform for advancing car safety was launched at the event and our colleagues at ASPEC had a follow up meeting in late June with the Director General from the Ministry of Transport. This is really brilliant news for the future of car safety in Peru.

Support the campaign

With our Members in Latin America, we been working alongside Global and Latin New Car Assessment Programmes to push for improved car safety regulation.

We are calling on:

  • Governments and manufacturers across Latin America to adopt UN Vehicle Safety Regulations in full. This will stop the sale of unsafe cars and help reduce deaths and injuries on our roads 
  • Manufacturers to provide accessible and accurate information to consumers about safety, in their dealerships and online 
  • Consumer and other organisations concerned about car safety to work together to raise consumer awareness about car safety and the safety ratings of Latin NCAP
You can help stop the shocking double standard in global car safety standards by taking our campaign action

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