Great Wall Motors' luxury brand promised its latest model would score five stars for safety, but it has fallen short say authorities.
Chinese cars have been hit with yet another safety setback in Australia.
Great Wall Motors' luxury brand promised its latest model -- the $50,000 Haval H9 SUV -- would score top marks in a crash test, but it has only earned an "average" four-star rating.
It was the first crash test of the new Haval H9 outside China by an independent authority.
While a four-star rating was once deemed "acceptable", improvements in technology means it is highly unusual for a new car to score less than five stars for safety.
We're shocked, we're disappointed, but it has galvanised us to do better on this car and on future models.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) found "driver leg protection was marginal" and there was a risk of "serious chest injury for the driver".
"New vehicle buyers have come to expect five-star safety from new models and unfortunately this result falls short of marketplace expectations," said ANCAP boss James Goodwin.
"The Haval H9 is being marketed as a premium offering from China's highest selling SUV brand and we would expect a vehicle in this price range to offer a greater range of advanced safety features and improved crash performance," said Mr Goodwin.
A spokesman for Haval said the company was "shocked" by the result but plans to make urgent changes to the engineering of future vehicles.
"We're shocked, we're disappointed, but it has galvanised us to do better on this car and on future models," said Haval Australia spokesman Andrew Ellis.
"Our engineers are assessing the crash test data and working on an update to the H9 as we speak."
The Haval H9 will not be withdrawn from sale because it meets outdated Australian government standards, which are due to be overhauled.
ANCAP is a government-funded consumer guide that compares the crash protection ratings of popular cars. It is not a regulatory body.
The Haval H9 has six airbags but it only scored 12.05 out of 16 in the critical offset frontal crash test at 64kmh.
Before the Haval H9 went on sale in Australia last year, senior executives in China said the vehicle would have five-star safety as part of the company's highly ambitious plan to overtake Toyota, the world's biggest manufacturer.
However, sales of Chinese vehicles have almost come to standstill in Australia after safety recalls of Great Wall Motors utes due to asbestos components and poor crash test ratings of earlier models in recent years.
Haval is yet to publish any monthly sales data for its new range -- and only has six dealers listed on its website, spread across Queensland, NSW and Victoria -- even though the cars have been on sale since October 2015.
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