The Volkswagen Up! Just Lost Two Euro NCAP Safety Stars

The Volkswagen Up! has taken a beating in its latest Euro NCAP testing, losing two safety stars. This is a result of the company removing its automatic braking feature…

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It’s far from an ideal result for Volkswagen, but in its latest round of Euro NCAP safety testing it’s Up! model has taken a beating; having lost its five star rating from 2011 and being left with just three. Whilst it was the electric ‘e-Up!’ version that was tested, the result will also apply to petrol-powered version; as well as the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, which are mechanically identical. But why the downgrade? It comes down to the safety assist score. In 2011, the Up! bagged a 86% rate for its safety assist technology. This year, however, it received just 55%. This is a result of Volkswagen removing autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as an optional buy-in.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham, didn’t mince his words in passing his own judgement. He said, “the withdrawal of its City AEB system is a major shortcoming, not least because consumers will be considering it as an affordable electric city-car option. The lack of an AEB system to avoid or mitigate collisions in a city-driving environment is therefore a significant omission”. He explained that whilst the car was still relatively safe, its overall score was ‘disappointing’.

Volkswagen, however, has gone of the defensive. In a statement it said, “the up! was reassessed this year and achieved three stars, as we hoped it would. Excellent passenger protection and Lane Assist installed as standard – as well as curtain and side airbags – make it one of the safest vehicles in its class. Due to the fact that the test conditions have become significantly tougher in recent years, three stars can be considered a very good rating”.

Tougher Standards? 

Volkswagen isn’t wrong to point out that Euro NCAP’s standards have gotten tougher. They have. More and more emphasis is being placed on in-car, safety-related technology. Whilst VW removed automatic braking in the Up!, it did add lane-keeping assistance; but this was insufficient to preserve its score. But the German automaker is missing a very big point. Euro NCAP’s standards are getting tougher because, like the broader industry, it believes in making progress in terms of safety. The bar is always being raised. Which is why Volvo doesn’t want anyone killed by one of its vehicles by 2020 and why the EU wants a zero fatality rate by 2050. Automatic braking stops a car when a driver fails to notice an obstacle or simply fails to react in time. It’s a simple but incredibly powerful feature in any vehicle.

So why has Volkswagen removed it? In addition, why is it prepared to confess publicly that it anticipated a reduced safety score whilst doing nothing about it? We can’t prove it, of course, but it’ll almost certainly come down to cost. Volkswagen is facing an ongoing legal onslaught for the Dieselgate controversy; costing it billions in fines and compensation. Another factor is how unprofitable city cars often are. Many manufacturers have abandoned them precisely because they make them at a loss or such a slight profit margin. Whilst this may make business sense, it won’t mean anything to drivers of the Up! who find themselves crashing or in car accidents.

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