Why the 2023 Hyundai Palisade earned a five-star safety rating when the 2022 version only managed four, and the questions it raises about new-car safety and testing | Opinion – Automotive News

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In June, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Hyundai Palisade a four-star safety rating. Then, in August, ANCAP awarded the Hyundai Palisade a five-star safety rating.

What happened in those two months highlights the complex role the safety body plays in the auto industry and how car buyers can get lost in the panoply of stars and safety tests .

Safety ratings are the most controversial topic in the automotive industry, so much so that no executive of an automotive company will say “on the record” anything that could be construed as “anti-safety” or critical. of ANCAP.

Learn more about the Hyundai Palisade

That’s largely because automakers know they need ANCAP and its five-star rating to open the door to not just any safety-appreciating consumer, but most buyers. fleet and increasingly popular ride-sharing services that demand the best odds.

The relationship between automakers and ANCAP is in many ways symbiotic, as automakers like to promote a maximum safety rating and ANCAP often relies on automakers to provide the multiple cars it needs for testing. of collision.

However, the palisade example highlights some issues in the relationship between these two sides, but more importantly, it shows how difficult it can be for consumers to get a clear indication of how the different models compare in terms of safety. The reason for both issues is that ANCAP updates its crash test procedures approximately every three years to keep up with the latest technology and consumer developments.

In the case of the Palisade, it was not originally designed for the Australian market and was instead intended for the United States and South Korea, two countries that use their own security corps to test, and has went on sale in 2018. That meant by the time it was designed for right-hand drive and went on sale in Australia in late 2020, it didn’t come with the safety features it needed to pass the new ANCAP test protocols for 2020 with a five-star result.

Hyundai would then have known, through its own internal testing and understanding of ANCAP regulations, that it was destined for a four-star rating. So Hyundai made the decision not to provide cars for ANCAP to test, forcing the safety body to invest nearly $1 million to purchase enough palisades to pass its multiple crash tests.

It was a deliberate move by Hyundai to slow down the inevitable release of bad news, perhaps even hoping that ANCAP would let what is ultimately a relatively low-volume model slip through its net.

But ANCAP didn’t let it slide, and that’s where it gets confusing, because when the safety body tested the car in early 2022, it didn’t release the results until June. – just two months before the renovated and improved Palisade in terms of security. would happen.

ANCAP noted in its press release announcing the four-star rating that the Palisade was “the only Top 10 selling model in the large SUV segment (

The problem is that of the nine other cars in this segment that have a five-star rating, only three others (the Isuzu M-UX, Toyota Kluger, and Subaru Outback) were tested under the same post-test protocols. 2020 than the Palisade. The category bestseller, the Toyota Prado, has a five-star ANCAP rating that dates back to 2011, but with updates to the score in 2017 as new technologies were added.

Still, that means six of the 10 large SUVs were tested to a lower standard than the Palisade, but have a higher published score.

For consumers, this is where – despite ANCAP’s best efforts with “tested-to-date” stamps and other materials on its website – things arguably get confusing. This goes against ANCAP’s stated goal of “providing clear, reliable and independent information to consumers” because unless you have a thorough and knowledgeable understanding of crash test protocols from ANCAP for each year, you’re just not comparing.

To its credit, ANCAP and its president and CEO, Carla Hoorweg, admit that this can be a challenge for consumers when trying to compare cars. So to try and combat this, ANCAP will be adopting the same six-year “use by dates” as Euro NCAP from December this year. This means that when the calendar rolls around at the end of this year, all vehicles tested in 2015 or earlier will no longer be able to display their ANCAP rating. This will continue every year, so each rating will only be valid for six years in the future.

“We recognize that the ANCAP safety assessment process is complex, which is why we have introduced the ‘year tested’ timestamp,” Ms Hoorweg said. Cars Guide. “Verifying the ‘tested’ timestamp ensures that you are comparing vehicles rated on similar test criteria.”

She added: “We recognize that there are still older ratings in the market and ANCAP is introducing a policy to expire them from January 1, 2023. This means that consumers only compare ratings on a six-year window – which is more in line with the standard life cycle.”

It’s a big step forward, but it only solves part of the problem. Because, as explained at the start, the Palisade is now rated with the maximum five stars because the 2023 model year has arrived with an updated safety package. Changes to the Adult Occupant Protection and Active Safety categories helped give it the points it needed on the ANCAP rating to raise its rating.

The challenge here is that Hyundai actively helped this time around because – to be blunt – it served its interest to provide ANCAP with more crash test data and other information at its own expense in order to get the highest score. higher.

This is by no means a problem limited to Hyundai and it would be unfair of us to isolate them. The reality is that many car brands will be happy to provide the necessary ANCAP (or Euro NCAP) cars for testing as long as they know they will earn a five star rating. It’s only when they know they won’t get top grades that they hold back.

In the specific palisade example, Hyundai is adamant that it had been planning these Australia-focused mid-life safety upgrades for over two years and was not shamed by the four rating ANCAP stars. But without ANCAP requiring these upgrades for the top score, would Hyundai (and any other automaker) continue to add security at the same level? They would say they would, but one thing is very clear about ANCAP and that is that it has played a major role in forcing the entire industry to raise its standards.

As Ms Hoorweg explained, since the introduction of the latest testing procedures in 2020, getting less than five stars is rare.

“ANCAP exists to encourage all manufacturers to offer the highest level of security possible – in this case, there is now a palisade that offers a high level of security equal to that of its peers in the segment,” he said. she declared.

“Of the 41 vehicles assessed by ANCAP under the current 2020-2022 criteria, only three received a rating below five stars (Hyundai Palisade, Mitsubishi Express and Citroen C4). This underlines that manufacturers are prioritizing safety and seek to provide their customers with the safest vehicles possible.Four other Hyundai models were evaluated during this period and all received five stars.

While there’s arguably still work to be done to help make safety ratings even clearer and more understandable to consumers, constantly raising the bar, ANCAP is forcing automakers to include more and more safety and it’s finally a major victory for car buyers.

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