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Industry insiders cite erosion in America’s crash-test program

When a commentator in a recent media piece states that consumers in Louisiana and nationally “can’t separate the lemons from the peaches,” he isn’t spotlighting a supermarket glitch in the produce section.

Rather, what Consumer Federation of American Executive Director Jack Gillis underscores via that comment is a growing auto safety problem linked with a once vaunted crash-test program that is now reportedly a shell of its former self.

Multiple auto industry insiders and safety experts echo Gillis’ complaint concerning America’s U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). That initiative was literally rolled out back in 1979 with the introduction of a star-linked rating system that now influences safety evaluations of vehicles globally.

The problem with NCAP, say legions of critics currently, is that it simply hasn’t kept up with the times.

“It’s easily manipulated by the automakers,” stated ex-NHTSA head Joan Claybrook at a recent press conference focused on NCAP history. Claybrook criticizes the crash program inaugurated four decades ago during her tenure as safety chief for failing to keep pace with vehicle updates and related technology enhancements.

As noted, other prominent authorities in the safety realm echo a similar refrain.

David Ward’s view must certainly command respect. Ward is president of Global NCAP, a huge international program based on original NCAP crash-test principles. His organization is now widely viewed as having far surpassed the U.S. program in contemporary relevance.

Ward stresses that the founding NCAP was once “the biggest gift to the world in terms of auto safety,” but now lags other testing bodies outside the U.S.

NCAP critics stress a compelling need for a materially updated vehicle safety testing regime in the United States to supplant the easily manipulated star rating system.

The NHTSA states that it is presently working on program improvements. An agency principal says that NCAP change will be accelerated “to keep pace with advancements in safety technology.”

Louisiana motorists and other drivers nationally will obviously benefit from that.

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