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European vehicle safety organisation calls for better van safety

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Euro NCAP, which tests the safety of vehicles sold in Europe, has criticised van manufacturers for the lack of safety features fitted to their vehicles as standard.

All motorhomes and campervans are built on van base vehicles so the comments and findings of Euro NCAP’s recent safety tests on 19 different vans sold across the UK and in Europe will be of particular interest to those wanting the latest safety equipment that comes as standard in most passenger cars in their new motorhomes.

For example, there are still some new motorhomes that only have a driver’s airbag as standard, although this situation is improving with more motorhome manufacturers specifying base vehicles with twin airbags. Until recently it was also almost impossible to find passenger seats with Isofix systems to securely install a child seat. Again this is improving.

But, in these recent tests, Euro NCAP looked at crash avoidance systems rather than systems that protect occupants in the event of a collision. And it was critical of van manufacturers for the lack of safety equipment fitted to their light commercial vehicles as standard.

Euro NCAP’s Secretary General, Michiel van Ratingen, said: “The first thing that struck us was how poorly vehicles in this segment are generally equipped with safety systems. Technology that is now standard on passenger cars is, almost without exception, an option on vans. Not only that but there is a huge lack of clarity about what is available in individual countries, and what functionalities the systems offer.

"Manufacturers really don’t make it easy for people to buy these options and we struggled hard to get hold of vans equipped with the systems we wanted to test. So, the results you see represent the absolute best that the vans will perform on the road. In all probability, there are very few vans actually on the road which are as well-equipped as the ones we tested, and that is part of our message today: manufacturers have to start taking the safety of this segment more seriously."

When publishing the results, Euro NCAP called for further action on van safety. It said there should be a standardisation of safety equipment on commercial vans and better performance of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on commercial vans, to match those fitted to cars.

It also there should be greater clarity from van manufacturers, on websites and in marketing material, regarding the safety features available on their vehicles.

In the tests, Volkswagen’s latest Transport –the T6.1 – which is the base vehicle for thousands of new campervans, came out top, as did the Ford Transit and both were awarded the highest gold medal. The Ford Transit is used as the base for several coachbuilt motorhomes, while the Transit Custom, which is used by many campervan converters, received the silver award.

Who is Euro NCAP?

Euro NCAP is a consortium made up of European transport ministries, automobile clubs, insurance associations and research institutes.

The body tested the safety of 19 light commercial vehicles, focusing on the availability and function of the active safety systems, such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) when approaching vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, as well as lane keeping technology, speed limit recognition and occupant monitoring systems.

Euro NCAP said the Transporter “offers consumers the option to buy a wide range of good-performing safety features and earns a gold medal in Euro NCAP’s tests. The Transporter sets, amongst the commercial vans, the bar for others in 2021.”

The Transit was also praised for its suite of active safety features with Euro NCAP specifically commending Ford’s AEB system and recognising its Pre-Collision Assist technology with Pedestrian Detection 1 as a class-leading feature.The Transit recorded the only perfect 100% score for its Traffic Sign Recognition 1 functionality; its AEB was also noted as the best for cyclist protection.

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