20 March 2007

Safety Snobbery

There was a Buick Century commercial way back in the 1990s that said something along the lines of “safety shouldn’t be just for the rich.”

Looking at several popular models in the 2007 model year, it would seem that certain auto executives would disagree with that ad.

First on the shaming block is the Dodge Charger. Dodge is happy to sell you one for $21,875 (MSRP for base SE). What’s that? You want side-impact protection? Slap an extra FIVE-THOUSAND SEVEN-HUNDRED dollars on your friendly salesman’s dented, grey metal desk. The cheapest Dodge Charger with side-impact airbags—and just for head, not torso, protection—will run $27,620. Good luck finding one so equipped on a dealer’s lot.

Next up is the 2007 North American Car of the Year (or the mellifluous “NACOTY”): the Saturn Aura. This is General Motors’ de facto star sedan. What crime against “safety for the masses” has this sharply dressed car committed? It thinks only those willing to pay for the $25,000 XR model deserve the “it” safety gizmo of the moment: Electronic Stability Control. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2004 study estimated that ESC reduced fatalities in single-vehicle crashes by 30 percent for passenger cars. Somehow, GM thinks buyers opting for the $21,000 XE model are not worthy of having such a dramatically lower chance of dying in such a collision. Saturn does not even offer it as an option for those that might just feel like self and family-preservation is as important as a universal garage door opener (which is on the XE’s option list).

Finally, we have the plucky and pudgy Nissan Versa. For $13,165, a buyer is rewarded with a 6-speed manual transmission, CD player, air-conditioning, and power mirrors. What they don’t get is anti-lock brakes. Fine, at least it seems like a cheap option: $250. Except that Nissan thinks people shouldn’t have ABS without also getting such hugely important features as a glove-compartment light bulb, door armrest pad, and rear door pockets. What does that mean? It means one must check off the “Power Package” before he or she is allowed to check off the much more important “ABS” box. So that $250 option balloons to nearly $1,000. For. no. good. reason. By what completely incompetent focus group did they run that brilliance?

Safety should not be an option. If the automakers reasonably have the ability to make a car less deadly, how can they justify not doing so? Why must they continue the concept that safety is for those that can pay for it? It seems the Buick copy-writers where well ahead of their employer with that concept.


Anonymous said...

Good points, and I agree - stability systems and side airbags should be standard across the board.

On the Aura - GM recognized the mistake, and is fixing it for 08 - but stabilitrak is not standard equipment in this class, across the board. Making it standard on upper level models, but not on cheaper versions, is the norm

However, it should be available. That was a real mistake.

HoeyHimself said...

Drivers have the ability to make automobiles less deadly by being better drivers..but lets face it, none of you would want to get a ticket for talking on your cell phone while driving, smoking a cigarette, eating/drinking, or reaching for something next to/behind you..all of which cause crashes right now as I write this..and there are hundreds of other common distractions that could be avoided..but like I said, nobody wants to accept the responsibility..it's easier for us to critisize a car manufacturer then it is to try harder to avoid accidents. I get your point, I am not arguing that it is ridiculous how much it costs for features to help save lives, it's terrible. But who here would glady accept a ticket and thank the officer when they get pulled over for doing something that could possibly be considered as a distraction in which an accident could result??

AdmiralViscen said...

Didn't know that about the Charger, that's pathetic.

Not to derail, but why the hell are the Avenger/Sebring 18-19 grand base, when their fullsizers are so cheap? It's stupid.

Ghrankenstein said...

When "safety" is dangerous.

Google "knee airbags study University of Michigan."


Old Dood said...

This is one of the main reasons I bought a Camry. 7 Air Bags standard. Doesn't matter which model either.

Quite frankly I am suprised that they are not madatory on all vehicles by now...

Krista said...

Interesting to know.