Chevrolet Sail Global NCAP crash test zero starsAnother Latin American Chevrolet has scored zero stars in Global NCAP crash safety tests – and the organisation has taken the unprecedented step of writing to the chairman and CEO of Chevrolet parent firm GM, Mary Barra, to express its concern.

Global NCAP’s concern is clear: the Chevrolet brand has a poor overall safety performance in the huge Latin American market, it says, with the worst average safety star rating of any major volume brand.

The Chevrolet Sail has just scored a zero star in the Latin NCAP tests, following the similar zero star of the Chevrolet Aveo. Global NCAP says this means both cars have a high risk of life threatening injury.

What’s more, neither would pass the United Nations’ minimum crash test standards.

GM ‘exploits weaknesses’

Urgent steps must be taken to address this, said Global NCAP secretary general David Ward. “GM has chosen to exploit the weak application of minimum crash test standards in Latin America to provide a version of the car that the company would be unable to sell either in Europe or North America.

“Two years ago GM announced a ‘Speak Up for Safety’ programme billed as an important step toward embedding a customer and safety-centered culture in every aspect of the business.

“Global NCAP warmly welcomes these commitments but believes that they now must have practical application in Latin America and in other emerging automotive markets.”

The letter details how the Euro NCAP test warned GM back in 2006 that the Aveo was unimpressive: the car’s bodyshell became unstable in crash tests and injuries to the crash test dummy “indicated an unacceptably high risk of life-threatening injury”.

Yet in the 2015 Latin NCAP test, the Chevrolet Aveo bodyshell again became unstable and poor dummy readings were again recorded for both head and chest.

This resulted in an even worse score of zero stars “primarily because, unlike in Europe, the Aveo in Mexico has no air bags fitted as standard,” said Global NCAP.

“For at least ten years, therefore, GM has known that without any airbags the Aveo will have a high risk of fatal injury in a frontal crash test at 40 mph. So clearly the safety of your customers in Mexico and in other countries in Latin America has been knowingly compromised.”

Damming words indeed. So what should GM do? Quite simply, adopt a new approach to vehicle safety, says Global NCAP.

The organisation wants GM to firstly, “globally ensure that from 2018 all its production in Latin America and worldwide pass the minimum UN crash test regulations (and equivalent Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) and include the crash avoidance system, electronic stability control.”

Second, it wants GM to “inform the Mexican Government that GM will support legislation for both minimum crash test standards and electronic stability control to be applied from 2018.”

GM has yet to respond.

UPDATE: GM responds

A GM spokesperson has contacted Motoring Research to say “GM shares the goal of improving road safety worldwide, including the adoption of basic auto safety standards in global markets and the phase-out of zero-star cars”.

The firm’s planned $5 billion investment in an all-new vehicle family for Latin America and other emerging growth markets will achieve this, it believes: the cars will have, at the very least, twin airbags, three-point seatbelts for all occupants and meet United Nations standards for structural performance in front and side impacts.

They will replace most of the high-volume cars in Latin America, including the two zero-star models criticised by Global NCAP.

They are, however, still some way off: the new vehicle family won’t appear before the 2019 model year. So, in the interim, GM is “expanding the availability of front airbags in a number of existing cars in Latin American markets, starting with the 2017 model year”.