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Hyundai safety u-turn on Santa Fe

Santa’s ESC clause: Entry models miss out on safety equipment such as electronic stability control.

RACV slams move to drop stability control from base models of South Korean SUV

6 Aug 2007

HYUNDAI Motor Co Australia is under fire from a leading motoring group for removing safety equipment from its Santa Fe SUV.

The South Korean brand has cut $2000 from the price of its mid-sized crossover wagon by reducing the trim level and omitting electronic stability control (ESC) as well as side and curtain airbags.

ESC and a full suite of airbags were fitted standard when Hyundai launched the CM-series Santa Fe in May last year.

At that time, Hyundai issued a press release pointing to studies by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that “show ESC-equipped SUVs have 63 percent fewer fatalities in single-vehicle crashes”.

The Hyundai release also claimed ESC is “reckoned by experts to be the car industry’s most effective life-saving technology since ABS and especially relevant in SUVs with their taller stance and higher centre of gravity”.

HMCA still offers ESC and additional airbags with higher-grade versions of the Santa Fe, but its removal from the most affordable models has upset the RACV motoring body.

RACV chief engineer Michael Case criticised HMCA for moving away from fitting ESC across the entire Santa Fe range.

“If ESC was standard, to then make it available only on selected models is a backward step,” Mr Case told GoAuto. “We are calling on all manufacturers to make ESC available, ideally as standard equipment, and if not then at least an affordable option.”

Mr Case said that, although Hyundai still offered ESC on more expensive Santa Fe models, it was the fact that the safety device had been standard on the base car and then since removed that was the issue.

“Most manufacturers are making an effort to make ESC standard across the range, and it appears that Hyundai is going the other way,” he said.

The cheapest Santa Fe model in the range with ESC and extra airbags is the 3.3 SLX, which costs $37,990 - $2000 more than the previous model 2.7 SLX with the same safety gear.

Since that model has been dropped, Hyundai has introduced a new base model that has dual airbags and ABS, but no ESC or extra airbags, for $33,990 in manual guise or $35,990 with an automatic.

There are some competitors, especially smaller models, that do not come with ESC, but it is standard fitment for two of the top-selling mid-sized SUV models.

The Holden Captiva, which comes only as an automatic, costs $34,990 and has ESC and front side and curtain airbags as standard.

Ford’s Territory is not as cheap, starting at $37,990, but the base model does have ESC, if not side and curtain airbags.

ESC is not even available for the current Toyota Kluger, but the new model that goes on sale this month will have the feature fitted as standard.

HMCA sales and marketing manager Kevin McCann said price competition in the segment led the company to offer a base model Santa Fe with no ESC.

“We are almost forced into this by key competitors in the marketplace we have to offer a low-cost version that gives up that equipment,” he said.

Mr McCann said Hyundai dealers had voiced their concerns that potential customers did not want to pay extra for ESC.

“I think we take notice of the marketplace (mood), which is delivered to us via our dealers. At the point of transaction they are under a lot of pressure to meet price requirements,” he said.

“They try to convince them it is worth it, but the customer can say, ‘Well I don’t care, I can go down the road and buy for a few hundred dollars less’ and that (vehicle) might not have it.”

Hyundai has previously shown market leadership in regard to ESC, fitting it to the Elantra small car and even offering an optional $1290 safety pack for the budget Getz light car that included ESC and side airbags.

However, Mr McCann said response to the Getz safety pack has been disappointing: “Only one per cent of Getz vehicles purchased have the Getz Protectz option, and we (Hyundai Australia) probably buy half of those,” he said.

The Hyundai change of heart regarding ESC comes as the Victorian Traffic Accident Commission is promoting the benefits of the technology along with additional airbags in a wide-ranging advertising campaign.

The road safety body hopes the public safety pitch will lead to customers demanding the technology when purchasing vehicles.

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