We've covered the disasters that crash tests have proven to be for Chinese cars in the past (search Google for 'Landwind SUV' or click on Brilliance BS6 for information on those). Now, news out of Russia is that the Chery Amulet - the top-selling Chinese model in Russia - has failed a crash test conducted for auto magazine AvtoRevu in spectacular fashion. In its 17 year history, the well-regarded AvtoRevu magazine has conducted 39 crash tests; most of those were locally-built models, but it has also conducted tests on foreign models from the U.S., Italy, France, and South Korea. Many of the foreign models have earned top ratings, and in fact a Russian-built model built by Avtovaz earned the magazine's lowest score ever, 0 out of 16, in 2001, so there likely was no conspiracy against Chinese imports or Chery specifically. In fact, Chery officials were present during the Amulet crash test.
The test that the car failed was designed to replicate the often-cited EuroNCAP offset barrier test; the car is traveling 64 kilometers per hour (about 40 miles per hour) into a solid barrier, but only part of the front bumper hits the barrier (so the impact is concentrated on a smaller area). The result was nothing short of catastrophic and is surely making Chrysler and Fiat executives a bit nervous this morning (since both companies have entered into agreements to have Chery build cars for them in the coming years). The car continued deforming past the rear edge of the front fender and continued until the crash test dummy driver's face was as far forward as the barrier! Don't take my word for it - see it for yourself below.
The test dummy became so entwined in the wreckage that it had to be removed from the car in pieces; he basically became part of the dashboard and steering wheel. The results were so bad that AvtoRevu called on Chery to immediately withdraw the car from the market. Chery declined to do so.
For its part, Chrysler is well aware of the safety and quality concerns that Chinese cars bring to the table. Chrysler plans to send scores of engineers to China to help Chery improve the engineering of their vehicles, and the ones exported to North America in particular, and also plans to keep a close eye on the supply chain to ensure that no shortcuts are taken in terms of material quality (AvtoRevu magazine speculated that perhaps Chery used softer metal than it should have in the Amulet; Chery denies this).
Once again, as long as I continue to value the safety of myself and my loved ones, I do not plan to do more than sit in a stationary Chinese-built car until they have proven that they can build cars to the same safety standards that the rest of the world adheres to. The Chinese auto manufacturers really need to get their act together with regard to quality and safety - there's a reason their cars are so cheap, and it's not low labor costs. It's a lack of engineering talent, sub-par materials, and indifferent quality control.