Car buyers will continue to get access to world-class safety information after the Australian crash-protection watchdog received a $2.2 million federal funding boost.
The future of independent car safety authority ANCAP was under a cloud after some manufacturers questioned its relevance once automotive manufacturing in Australia comes to an end in 2017.
The European brand that led the charge against ANCAP had the most to hide: two of its latest cars lack rear airbag protection and would score poorly against the current criteria.
European crash safety authorities are poised to close the loophole in 2016, but Australia’s car safety boffins have already tightened the regulations after they noticed some brands introducing cars without rear airbag protection, as older ANCAP rules didn’t explicitly require it.
"We are extremely grateful for the new government to continue to support ANCAP in light of recent budget announcements," said the chief executive officer of ANCAP, Nick Clarke.
It brings Federal Government support to more than $7 million over seven years, although it is not the sole funding source.
ANCAP is supported by 23 members, including the roads and traffic authorities in each state and territory, road service providers, insurance companies, and New Zealand road safety bodies.
It was established in 1992 to give car buyers more detailed information about the safety of vehicles. Contrary to perception not all cars are created equally.
In some countries, well known European brands sell cars without any airbags at all, when they are available with a full compliment of six airbags or more in other countries.
Although ANCAP does not have the power to block a vehicle from being sold in Australia, its more robust test measures have made it the default standard by which cars are judged.
Australian government car safety standards were last overhauled two decades ago.
With Australia becoming an attractive destination for cheap Chinese and Indian cars, ANCAP has been critical in highlighting their safety shortcomings.
"Cars are made to different standards around the world and we want to make sure Australia continues to get the safest cars for our conditions," said Mr Clarke.
ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh said: "As we see more and more imported cars entering our market, the continued role of ANCAP as the only independent organisation providing detailed safety comparisons is essential.
"It is reassuring to see this new Government continue to recognise the significance of safer vehicles and the important, independent role ANCAP plays in vehicle safety through its continued investment in our program."
The continuation of federal funding underscores the important role vehicle safety plays in reducing road trauma, said Mr McIntosh.
"This is of particular relevance during this Decade of Action as we strive to meet a 30 per cent, or greater, reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2020," he said.
ANCAP, which in fact preceded Euro NCAP, is now developing standards to test safety assistance and crash avoidance technology, such as the automatic braking City Safety system pioneered by Volvo.
"ANCAP is here for the long haul," said Mr Clarke. "First and foremost is our commitment to give car buyers detailed safety information about new vehicles."
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling