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Is it time to rethink car safety? Renault boss questions need for technology: Report

Renault has called for changes to Euro NCAP regulations.

Stricter crash testing requirements may not be helping produce safer cars for customers and instead putting too much focus on new technology with questionable benefits.

That’s the view of Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo who has publicly questioned the strategy of Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Program), the European partner organisation to Australia’s ANCAP.

According to a report from Autocar, Mr de Meo publicly questioned the role of Euro NCAP at the Change Now conference in Paris. Mr De Meo questioned the benefits of the increased focus on active safety technologies, such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane keeping assist (LKA) and similar systems.

Euro NCAP effectively requires these systems in order for a car to achieve a maximum five-star rating. However, according to de Meo, this focus on active safety systems is driving up the cost of cars for consumers with questionable benefit.

“We need to keep an eye on what is really bringing solutions to real-world cases without trying to make cars Christmas trees with technology on them that is absolutely useless,” Mr de Meo said.

“We are getting to the limit of suppliers trying to impose their own ideas rather than doing what is good for customers.”

Mr de Meo’s comments also come off the back of the Renault Zoe electric city car being handed a zero-star rating in December 2021 by Euro NCAP. The safety body handed out just its third zero score in its history, citing poor occupant protection and the lack of AEB (although the latter is now fitted as standard).

It was a shocking result for what is one of the most popular cars in its class in Europe, and came two decades after Renault was the first car maker to score five stars for a new car - the Laguna. Mr de Meo played down suggestions he was criticising Euro NCAP in the wake of the Zoe’s poor score and instead said he was happy to fit safety equipment if there was a clear purpose for it.

“Of course I respect Euro NCAP. We have played the game for decades. We were first to get five stars with the Laguna,” Mr de Meo said.

“They have helped us focus on the problem and improve but going forward we have to debate on what is the right approach, and what are the things that really make a difference. Sometimes I see things that defy logic.

“I want a system of common sense - perhaps these days the rarest commodity of all. If they proposed a system to stop drink-drivers starting a car, I would install it tomorrow. If they wanted to use autonomous technology to restrict speeds to the limits, I’d agree. Let’s look at the problems - speed, distraction, physical condition issues - with solutions.”

The Renault chief is not alone in having these concerns, and while no one has spoken on the record, several executives have privately expressed concerns to CarsGuide in recent years that the increasingly high bar Euro NCAP and ANCAP is setting means fewer cars will score a five-star rating in order to keep prices competitive.