Fleet News

Fleet demands drive car safety revolution

DEMANDS from fleet decision-makers for safer cars to protect their staff on the road have helped drive a revolution in vehicle safety.

The claim comes as the first lower-medium car has received the maximum score in the European New Car Assessment Programme crash tests.

The Renault Megane was revealed on Tuesday as the first small family car to achieve the maximum five-star grade in the crash tests, joining a list of six vehicles that now qualify for the organisation's award as the safest cars on the road.

In the latest round of tests, published this week, the Renault Megane, Renault Vel Satis, Mercedes-Benz E-class and Saab 9-3 were awarded the maximum five-stars for occupant protection.

The Mercedes C-class and Renault Laguna already hold the maximum score. The Megane's success as the first lower-medium car to achieve the maximum score, comes just days after it was named European Car of the Year 2003 by a judging panel of 58 European journalists.

A spokesman for the organisers of the test said: 'It is clear that most manufacturers now build in their desire to get a good score in the Euro NCAP crash tests into their development process when they are bringing out a new model.

'This is what Euro NCAP has been trying to achieve since its launch. With the size of the business car market, pressure from corporate buyers will have provided a catalyst for these safety improvements. In the business sector, where performance and safety are key criteria in choice lists, manufacturers know it will help them promote their models to customers.'

However, despite their success in protecting occupants, manufacturers have been criticised for their poor record on pedestrian safety with no car tested achieving more than two stars, and one car, the long-wheelbase Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7, achieving a zero rating.

Transport minister David Jamieson said: 'I am pleased that vehicle manufacturers are continuing to improve the overall safety of car occupants and that there was an increase in the number of cars achieving the maximum five-stars.

However, in a period when some cars have been improving pedestrian protection, it is very disappointing that in this phase one car failed to score at all for pedestrian protection.'

Max Moseley, Euro NCAP chairman and president of the FIA, said: 'Whatever type of car you prefer to drive, whatever price you can afford, it is clear that there is now a wider choice of models than ever before offering stronger levels of protection.'

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