The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) crash test of the $10,990 driveaway Chery J1 resulted in a three-star rating for the Chinese-built hatchback.
It reports the car "lost structural integrity in the frontal offset crash test at 64km/h, which would result in considerable injury risk for the occupants". There was also "poor protection from serious chest injuries for the driver in both the frontal offset and side impact crash tests".
Chery spokesman Daniel Cotterill says the high point for importer Ateco Automotive was that Chery sent engineers from China to watch the tests. "They sent senior crash-test people here from China for the testing. They had a good dialogue with the ANCAP people," he says.
Cotterill says the J1 is sold with more safety gear in Australia than in any other market. "It's never been the case with any of our Chinese offerings that there has been a box to tick for extra safety gear that we've left off," he says.
"If they can do it we take it. I reckon that we'll see some improvements via running changes to current cars, now they've seen it first hand that will have an effect on the way they go about designing future models."
ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh says there were concerns over the lack of side airbags and stability control, which are featured in key competitors, including the Holden Barina Spark, the Mazda2 and some Hyundai Getz models.
"These life-saving features are available on competing models from other manufacturers many of which have a five-star ANCAP rating. ANCAP was pleased that engineers from Chery travelled to Australia to attend the crash tests and discuss how to improve their products with ANCAP technical staff," he says.
Toyota got an upgrade from four to five stars without smashing a car into any obstacle. The Camry range has been upgraded to five stars (a rating already applied to the locally built Aurion) with the introduction of a seat belt reminder and improved knee protection for front passengers, standard in cars produced from this month.
McIntosh says Toyota's upgrades were worthwhile safety features and would meet new government fleet regulations. Such purchases account for a large percentage of Camry sales. "A seat belt reminder device for the front passenger seat and more crash protection for the driver's knees have been made just weeks before the Australian government introduces a mandatory five-star safety standard for all federal fleet passenger car purchases from July 1."
He says about one in five road crash fatalities in Australia are caused by failure to wear seat belts. "Under ANCAP's recently released Roadmap, seat belt reminders will become mandatory for front seats for a five-star rating from 2013."
He says the new rule which affected around half of the new vehicle market also would lead to improved safety standards and features in private vehicles. "Commonwealth fleet vehicles are commonly sold into the private vehicle market within two or three years," he says.
"The sales of these vehicles will allow Australian families another avenue via which they can purchase five-star vehicles."