Car companies are struggling with a $1000 problem — buyers want the latest safety technology but don't like to pay for it.
In fact, they'd rather have bling rims than a certain, potentially life-saving active safety measure.
The issue is over stability control, a hi-tech system that can prevent a skid. Most experts rate it as the single biggest advance in car safety in a generation. However, the Australian car industry has found it is popular only when standard, not when an extra-cost option.
So far this year, only one in 100 buyers of the Hyundai Getz, from $13,990, have added the safety pack option including stability control.
A “sports pack” of alloy wheels, roof spoiler and bright interior trim has proved twice as popular.
In the $21,000-plus Mazda 3, demand for the stability control option has reached five per cent this year, up from two per cent last year.
The US intends to make stability control mandatory on all new cars and Europe reportedly has plans to do the same.
European research found the move could reduce by 80 per cent the number of crashes caused by skidding, saving 4000 lives a year if fitted to all cars there, according to Germany's University of Cologne.
But in Australia, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, representing car makers and importers, is pressing the Federal Government not to make stability control mandatory.
“That just tends to lock in old technology,” said FCAI president and Toyota Australia chairman emeritus, John Conomos.
He said self-regulation would allow companies to switch to better systems as they were developed.
Stability control is expected to be in 40 per cent of new cars by the end of the year.
Holden has made it standard in Commodore sedans and Toyota will fit it to all Camry sedans from August. It is an option in most Falcons, standard in top-level versions. But it is not available in the new model Toyota Corolla, the top-selling small car.