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Toyota brings back Echo safety pack

The ratings game: The Echo’s crash-test rating will be reassessed by ANCAP.

Toyota puts back the safety pack option in the Echo

8 Dec 2004

TOYOTA has re-introduced the front passenger airbag and anti-lock braking system (ABS) option for its Echo light car following an unprecedented downgrading of the smallest Toyota’s crash-test performance rating.

Effective from December 1, all Echo variants are once again available with a front passenger airbag, in addition to its standard driver’s airbag, as part of an optional $1000 safety pack that also includes ABS.

The move represents a backflip from Toyota’s decision to delete the safety pack from Echo’s options list in March 2003.

At this time, Toyota slashed Echo pricing, added comfort-oriented features and introduced safety enhancements including structural reinforcements and a three-point centre rear seatbelt.

"These things (dual airbags and ABS brakes) should always be available either as standard equipment or at the very least as an affordable option,” RACV chief engineer (vehicles), Michael Case said yesterday.

"It’s pleasing that Toyota has responded and made that passenger airbag at least as an option, and we would like to think that information and advice from programs like NCAP that informs consumers about these things can bring pressure on manufacturers to make this important safety equipment available." The crash test rating of Toyota’s cut-price Echo, which went on to play a critical role in the Japanese brand’s return to Australian new-car sales dominance in 2003 and again this year, was subsequently downgraded from four stars to three (out of a possible five) by the independent Australian New Car Assessment Program.

Mr Case said the Echo’s crash-test rating would now be reassessed by ANCAP’s technical committee, indicating that a split rating (with the option pack and without) could be introduced.

"The possibility here is a rating for the vehicle without a passenger airbag and a rating for one with a passenger airbag," he said.

At the time of the Echo’s ANCAP downgrading, Toyota Australia would not comment on the results but defended the termination of Echo’s passenger airbag option on the basis that its customer take-up was "extremely low".

This week, Toyota spokesman Mike Breen told GoAuto the reinstatement of Echo’s optional safety pack was in response to consumer demand.

"People have been asking for it, so we decided to offer it again," he said.

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