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Navara safety scare

Whack: Nissan's Navara hits NCAP's frontal impact barrier.

Nissan starts “service campaign” as Navara scores a shock one-star NCAP crash result

26 Feb 2008

NISSAN’S Navara has been awarded an “extremely poor” one-star strike-through rating from leading independent automotive crash safety body Euro NCAP, which today (March 26) in Brussels released the results of its first ever round of commercial utility tests that also involved the Mitsubishi L200 (Triton) and Isuzu D-Max (Holden Rodeo).

The L200, known in Australia as the Triton, scored a “respectable” four-star adult occupant protection rating, as well as a three-star child protection rating and a one-star pedestrian safety rating, while the D-Max (sold here as the Holden Rodeo) managed a two-star strike-through result for adult safety, as well as a two-star child safety score and the same pedestrian safety result.

A right-hand drive 2.5-litre diesel 4x4 example of the current D40 Nissan, which last year was Australia’s second most popular 4x4 ute behind Toyota’s HiLux, managed a pedestrian safety score of two stars and a child safety score of three.

However, it posted a shocking one-star strike-through result for adult safety, because of what Euro NCAP said was “the unacceptably high risk of life threatening injury to the driver's head and the passenger's neck” in the frontal impact test.

Euro NCAP said that in addition to the collapse of the Navara’s chassis rail on the impacted side, which allowed a “significant” level of intrusion into the driver’s footwell, “protection of the driver’s chest was rated as weak owing to the extent to which the chest was compressed, combined with the threat posed by the unstable passenger compartment”.

“The passenger's neck was bent rearwards in the impact, presenting a high risk of life-threatening injury,” Euro NCAP said. “The airbags and seatbelt pretensioners were triggered late in the impact and readings from the driver dummy's head also indicated a high risk of life-threatening injury.

“The Navara has been awarded a one-star rating as its performance in frontal impact did not reach the minimum level required for a higher rating. Moreover, the unacceptably high risk of life threatening injury to the driver's head and the passenger's neck have led to that star being struck through.”

In what now appears to have been a pre-emptive strike, Nissan of Europe announced the instigation of a European Service Campaign on February 18, which invited the owners of almost 130,000 Navara models built between the start of production in January 2005 and May 2007 to “have a modification made to the airbag control unit” at their dealer.

“An enhancement has been made to the software that controls the deployment of the airbags during a frontal impact,” said the campaign bulletin more than a week ago.

12 center imageLeft: Isuzu D-Max/Rodeo (top) and Mitsubishi L200/Triton (below).

“To ensure that affected Navara vehicles have this updated software, Nissan will be contacting owners and asking them to return their vehicle to their nearest Nissan dealer for the airbag control unit to be reprogrammed. The reprogramming work should take no more than 20 minutes for which there will be no charge. Nissan is unaware of any incidents involving customer cars,” it said.

A modified Navara was sent to NCAP earlier this month for re-testing, the results of which will be published “as soon as possible”.

Furthermore, in an 11th-hour “position statement” prior to last night’s Euro NCAP announcement, Nissan of Europe said the fix had been applied to production vehicles from December 2007 and that although pre-May 2007 vehicles were not affected, owners of all Navaras dating back to 2005 would be invited to undertake the software upgrade.

“Nissan is clearly disappointed with the results of the latest Euro NCAP crash test, where the score for the model year 08 Nissan Navara was compromised by the delayed deployment of the airbags. Nissan is also disappointed that Euro NCAP has not published the results of the re-test of Navara, equipped with upgraded airbag control unit software,” said the Nissan statement issued one hour before the NCAP result was released.

“Nissan would like to emphasise that the airbag issue applies to a limited number of Model Year 08 Navaras that were produced between May and December 2007. There is no issue with the airbag control unit on Navaras produced from launch in 2005 until May 2007.

“Following consultation with Euro NCAP after the results of the first test, Nissan immediately developed and, in December 2007, put into production a software update on the airbag control unit to ensure the airbag performed exactly according to design specifications. In parallel to this, a service campaign was launched in December 2007 on all Model Year 08 Nissan Navaras, where customers of the Model Year 08 Navara were invited to their Nissan dealer to have updated airbag control settings applied to their vehicles.

“To obtain Euro NCAP’s verification of the effectiveness of the software update, earlier this month Nissan made available to Euro NCAP a Navara with the modified airbag control unit for re-test. Nissan is looking forward to the publication of these results in the coming weeks. Nissan is eager for Euro NCAP’s confirmation that the modifications have fully resolved the airbag deployment issue and is confident that it will achieve a competitive score.

“However, in full consultation with Euro NCAP, Nissan has opted to expand the scope of the service campaign, as a move to offer maximum reassurance to Navara customers, to include all Nissan Navaras produced from launch in 2005. Therefore, from last week, Navara owners have been invited to visit their dealer to have the updated software applied to their vehicles.”

Nissan Australia spokesman Jeff Fisher said “about 22,000” Navaras were affected in Australia, but they are not subject to a safety recall because “Navara D40 achieves all regulatory requirements. Nissan decided to conduct this proactive market action to reassure customers and underline our commitment to safety”.

RACV chief engineer – vehicles and Australian NCAP spokesman Michael Case said a below-average NCAP rating is not cause for a safety recall.

“I’m not aware of any reason that would compel Nissan to undertake a safety recall,” he said. “(But) the challenge will be for Nissan to ensure they get to the owners of all of those vehicles to ensure they are all upgraded.”

GoAuto understands local Nissan dealers were advised of an impending Australian service campaign for the Navara on February 18. Mr Fisher said the delay in its commencement here, to “approximately” March 6, was “simply a question of logistics”.

“The (airbag software) logarithm upgrade is distributed to us in turn ex-Japan. (The) important thing to remember is that we don’t want to send owners to dealers who haven’t received the software,” he said, adding that all Navara D40s manufactured from December 2007 include the airbag software enhancement, which will also be applied to all vehicles in dealer stock.

“Current owners will be contacted by Nissan Australia (by letter) commencing approximately 6th March. They will be asked to take their vehicle to any authorised Nissan dealership to enable the airbag software update to be completed.

“Euro NCAP has retested the Navara D40 following the airbag control unit software enhancement and the results will be made public in the coming weeks. Nissan Europe’s internal tests, using Euro NCAP methodology, resulted in a score which, we believe, will be a competitive result,” said Mr Fisher.

Asked why Nissan’s Pathfinder, which is based on the same platform and produced at the same Spanish factory as the Navara, is not affected, Mr Fisher said: “Whilst it does share the same basic platform and airbag control unit sensitivity settings as Navara, there are differences in the vehicle structure. The airbag deployment time for Pathfinder achieves the necessary requirements and Pathfinder has been confirmed as achieving four-star level through Euro NCAP crash testing.”

Euro NCAP said its first pick-up tests were in response to a 7.2 per cent rise in European sales in 2007, and a 24.7 per cent sales hike in NCAP’s new member states.

“Euro NCAP’s stringent crash tests reveal that the safety of vehicles in this category is not a high priority for some car-makers,” said NCAP.

“Euro NCAP has also noted a trend where manufacturers are upping the level of options and trims available on pick-ups in order to target consumers who may use such cars as family transport, rather than as commercial vehicles. Tax incentives in some countries may be the cause, but whatever the reason Euro NCAP has concerns about the safety of pick-ups.

“Euro NCAP’s concerns were justified: both the Nissan Navara and the Isuzu D-Max/Rodeo received poor scores in Euro NCAP’s adult occupant rating. This confirms Euro NCAP’s belief that car manufacturers need to boost their efforts in safety testing across their ranges before cars reach production. Through its crash testing, Euro NCAP has also proven its essential role in upping the level of safety of cars on the road. The Navara achieved an extremely poor rating of a one star strike-through.

“Nissan consequently has now announced a service campaign with the intention of improving the airbag software of every Navara on the road since the start of production. Euro NCAP is currently assessing the modified car and will release the result as soon as possible. Isuzu D-MAX/Rodeo also received a disappointing two star strike-through rating in adult occupant protection with an unacceptably high risk of life-threatening injury to the chest region.

“The best of all the pick-ups tested by Euro NCAP was the Mitsubishi L200, which received a respectable four star result in adult occupant protection. All the vehicles received disappointing child and pedestrian protection scores,” said NCAP.

Euro NCAP today also released the results for the Suzuki Splash, Daihatsu Terios, Renault Kangoo, Citroen C5 and BMW X3.

Of these results, only the Citroen C5 received five stars for adult occupant protection, with the remainder claiming four stars. The Terios and Splash disappointed with three-star child safety results (the rest scored four), but the same Japanese models top-scored with three stars for pedestrian safety. The Kangoo and C5 earned two pedestrian safety stars, with the X3 scoring just one.

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