Collaboration on safety key to overseas growth

By LI FUSHENG | China Daily
Updated: April 1, 2024
People look at an electric vehicle of Zeekr at the Swedish eCarExpo 2024 in Stockholm, Sweden, on Feb 2, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese carmakers are bringing vehicles to European markets "equivalent, or sometimes even better" than those of their global rivals, said a senior official of the European New Car Assessment Program.

"Chinese car manufacturers have improved their products' quality and safety performance significantly. It is very clear from ratings we have given and vehicles we have tested," said Michiel van Ratingen, secretary-general of the Euro NCAP.

He made the remarks in an interview with China Daily last week on the sidelines of the 2024 Automotive Test and Assessment Innovative Conference organized by the China Automotive Technology and Research Center, or CATARC for short.

Based in Leuven, Belgium, the Euro NCAP evaluates new vehicles entering the European market, giving them star-ratings based on the performance of the vehicles in a variety of crash tests. It is generally viewed as the strictest of its kind in the world.

Van Ratingen said Chinese car manufacturers' improved safety performance has a lot to do with the Chinese New Car Assessment Program.

China started the program later than the United States and Europe, but through collaboration it has developed quickly and caught up after around a decade of effort.

"We can see the results of their success. Many of the Chinese carmakers can get five-star ratings in the Euro NCAP. It is due to the China NCAP, actually," said van Ratingen.

He added that success brings responsibility, which entails further collaboration. "We (need to) agree on the way forward. If we don't agree, we create additional barriers to the industry to sell cars worldwide," he said.

"The China NCAP and the Euro NCAP should work very closely together in the context of global NCAP, the family of all the NCAPs, because if you are leaders, you need to set the example for everybody else."

Li Xiangrong, director of the CATARC's Car Assessment and Testing Center, which runs the C-NCAP, shares a similar opinion.

He said exchanges and cooperation with major assessment programs in regions like Europe and Southeast Asia will make the C-NCAP more global markets-oriented.

"We hope to establish channels for Chinese carmakers to learn about the latest changes in Europe and Southeast Asia, which we call the 'password' to overseas markets."

Besides the regular C-NCAP, Li's center has rolled out new programs to assess how clean or smart the vehicles are as the automotive industry is shifting toward smart electrification, especially in China.

China has emerged as one of the world's leading vehicle exporters. Last year, over 4.9 million vehicles were exported, up 57.9 percent year-on-year.

Of them, more than 1.2 million were electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, with Europe and Southeast Asia as the primary destinations.

Wong Shaw Voon, chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research, said new energy vehicles are more about clean energy, adding that smart technologies in such vehicles are appealing to customers as well.

He said the overall quality of Chinese carmakers' products are "going in a positive direction, in which the C-NCAP has played its role."

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations members are putting a greater emphasis on road safety, in which vehicle safety is very important and more reliable.

Car buyers want to know how safe vehicles in the market are so they can decide what to buy and that requires third-party organizations which offer fair and professional information, said Wong.

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