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Australia's peak automotive safety body knew, in February this year, that the Great Wall Cannon had underperformed in key areas of its crash-test performance, but allowed the vehicle manufacturer to fix the “safety related deficiencies" before awarding it a five-star ANCAP rating.
ANCAP says it discovered two important and unexpected deficiencies in the Great Wall Cannon, namely "high-head acceleration" into a steering column that collapsed late, as well as the "possibility of high neck shear in whiplash protection" owing to the headrest. ANCAP says both are "biomechanical terms" used to measure forces in the group's testing procedures.
The discoveries were made during crash testing in February this year, but rather than to inform Australian consumers, Great Wall was afforded the chance to fix the issues and retest the vehicle, with the new results released in November.
ANCAP has allowed vehicle manufacturers to address concerns and fix identified issues before being retested since 2018, but this is the first time that the protocol has been applied to a vehicle that's already on sale to consumers.
Until July 31st 2021, Great Wall continued to produce and sell the vehicles that were yet to be rectified, even though ANCAP discovered these safety deficiencies in February. All up, about 6000 vehicles were impacted.
As a result, ANCAP is only now telling owners of vehicles built between September 2020 and 31 July 2021 that they are "strongly advised to have the rectification action completed as soon as possible so that their vehicle can also meet 5 star ANCAP safety requirements."
There had been a long delay on Great Wall's ANCAP results being released, with testing commencing in December 2020. CarsGuide spoke to ANCAP on several occasions to enquire as to the cause of the delay, and we were told it was down to a delay in getting access to an active safety equipment testing lab.
As it turns out, ANCAP had begun working with Great Wall to fix these issues and retest the vehicle from February.
Great Wall had said from the outset it was targeting a five-star ANCAP result for its new GWM Ute family, and says it has rectified the issues uncovered by ANCAP to produce a genuine five-star product, and a solution that can now be retro-fitted to models already on the road.
The new parts will arrive in December, and the brand is contacting all impacted customers to make a booking to have the rectification work carried out from January, or at their next scheduled service.
"We’re very happy with the 5-star ANCAP result achieved by the GWM Ute and it’s a strong indication of our desire to bring the safest possible vehicle to market," says GWM spokesperson, Steve Maciver.
"As soon as we were made aware of early test results, we quickly made the required engineering and production upgrades.
"GWM’s willingness and ability to respond so promptly demonstrates the importance of this 5-star ANCAP result. It makes an already strong package even stronger and we expect the GWM Ute’s appeal to grow further as a result.”
But questions must surely be asked of an ANCAP protocol that allows significant test results, for any vehicle, to be undisclosed to the public while the issues are rectified, especially if that particular model is already on sale and in the hands of consumers.
Not so, says ANCAP Chief Executive Officer, Carla Hoorweg, who says "we actually think this is a great outcome for consumers."
"The way the protocols work now, with the retesting pathway that's been in place since 2018, is that where a manufacturer can satisfy us that they are going to be able to meet all the criteria, which is very stringent, then we get this outcome where the vehicles that are already in the market have to be rectified by the manufacturer," she says.
''We haven't seen that in action before. It has only been in place in Australia since 2018, it has occurred where vehicles have not been in the market (where a manufacturer does the... testing before a vehicle is on sale) so it's not uncharted territory."
ANCAP says the initial Great Wall test occurred in December 2020, with the full-width frontal test (the one in which the deficiencies were detected) occurring in February 2021.
ANCAP blames a "confluence" of factors in delaying the retesting, but insists the vehicle is, and was always, safe. That's despite ANCAP never actually calculating the Great Wall's safety score after the "safety deficiency that was identified" and stressing that it's "important" that all Great Wall customers have these rectification works carried out.
"We're not talking here about an unsafe vehicle. We're not talking about a vehicle that is subject to an official recall by an ACCC action," says Hoorweg.
"In the full-width frontal test, we saw high head acceleration into the airbag, and we went through a detailed investigation with the manufacturer and identified it was as a result of the steering column collapsing late.
"There was also the possibility of high neck shear in whiplash protection, in response to that, the head restraint for the headrest has been redesigned, and for the vehicles already in market that will mean a replacement part.
"We don't calculate the scores once a safety deficiency like that is identified. Once there's an unexpected result, we go through a process of identifying what the issue is, and then the manufacturer needs to work through whether they can satisfy the re-test protocol.
"If they go down that pathway, we don't continue assessing to the point of getting to a final score."