GM, like most other corporate giants, is all about the bottom line. Unfortunately, what this means for those car buyers is Latin American markets is less safety. One of the most popular autos in those markets is the Chevy Aveo, which is sold without airbags. The safety rating on the Aveo in Mexico is ZERO ou of FIVE stars, according to an independent consumer safety organization.
Are you ready for what could potentially be the understatement of 2015? The Chevy Aveo is sold in Mexico without airbags, putting lives at risk. Read it again. Can I get a collective “What?!” for this money-saving move on GM’s part?
Safety standards are remarkably different for vehicles sold in Latin American markets as compared to the European and U.S. markets. For example, several vehicle types in Mexico don’t have to be sold with basic safety measurements such as antilock brake or airbags. This fact has been cited numerous times as a significant factor in increased vehicle-related deaths.
One big criticism of automakers selling less-than-safe vehicles in Latin America is that the companies lower safety standards to offset falling profits. The Latin American office of the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), an independent consumer group committed to evaluating vehicle safety issued a report in 2013 after finding that vehicles mad by Renault-Nissan, Suzuki and GM had worse safety scores than their European and U.S. counterparts.
Does this mean that these automakers devalue lives in developing countries? That’s a very good question and one that hasn’t been definitively answered. Though truthfully, do we really expect the automakers to tell us if it’s true? Nope. Last I checked, pigs couldn’t fly indicating that the conditions for such honesty haven’t yet been met.
The Chevrolet Aveo just barely passed NCAP European testing nine years ago. The version for that market had four airbags and still received only a two-star rating, meeting the European Unions regulatory tests. However, those safety standards were thrown out the window for the Mexican market.
The Aveo’s most recent safety test results were pitiful. According to the new NCAP Latin America rating released this week, the car failed adult occupant protection tests. And this was the best-selling car in Mexico from September 2014 until August 2015! NCAP Latin America ran crash tests on the Aveo and determined that the body shell is unstable, offering little protection for the driver’s head and chest. In fact, the AVEO got zero stars out of a possible five stars in the adult occupant protection category.
The car failed so miserably that it prompted the president of NCAP Latin America, Maria Fernanda Rodriguez, to write to Mary Barra, GM’s CEO. Rodriguez’ major talking point was the utter lack of safety features in GM vehicles sold in Latin American markets.
She wrote, “It is hard to understand how GM can still sell a non-airbag version of the Aveo in Mexico with a high fatality risk.”
Sadly, even I can explain that one. It’s a simple, five-letter word: M-O-N-E-Y. Corporations want it, consumers have it and if the former can get it by screwing over the latter (especially when the latter may not be as favorably positioned to fight back) they’ll do it.
The Secretary General of NCAP Latin America, Alejandro Furas said, “Government regulations in Latin America are softer than they are in the U.S. and Europe, and that allows manufacturers to sell cars with lower safety standards. They also want to make as much profit as possible by removing certain features. We’ve seen less reinforcements in the structure, so less metal material, and no airbags.”
Furas’ statement is the polite phrasing of my explanation.
GM announced last year that it was initiating a new program designed to encourage employees to be vocal about potential safety issues in the company’s products. The NCAP, while obviously not GM employees, is taking that message to heart and calling for big changes from GM.
Furas said, “All the measures we’re talking about have been developed in the last 20 years. There’s no reason not to put them in the cars we have in Latin America.”