TROLLHATTAN - A top safety expert at Saab wants government agencies to publish data on car crashes.
Christer Nilsson, head of accident investigation for Saab Automobile AB, said consumer advocacy groups are putting too much reliance on laboratory crash test results. Real-life accident data should be available also, he said.
Saab has a database of more than 5,000 road accidents involving its cars, including the assessment of body structure damage and personal injuries.
'We believe national authorities should consider publishing real-life road accident data, not just the results of mandatory crash tests,' said Nilsson in an interview.
'I am not saying that we shouldn't bother doing laboratory tests with dummies - they are useful for development testing. But the results should not be used to encourage people to say one car is safer than another.
'You cannot assess crash safety by simply looking into a feature list or making single laboratory tests. This would be misleading and even dangerous.'
The German consumer magazine Auto Motor und Sport has publicized results of its crash tests for years. This year, a group of safety advocates and national transport departments began another series of private crash tests called Euro-NCAP (New Car Assessment Program). Results on crashes of superminis were widely publicized.
Nilsson said it was misguided to base comparative safety ratings on the Euro-NCAP results.
'Safety is a much bigger picture and cannot be properly measured simply by how much better one car may be than another in two or three tests,' he said.
'We believe it is quite possible to design a car that will meet certain mandatory crash tests and therefore be legal for road use, but in terms of real life it would provide only limited and unsatisfactory protection to its occupants.'
He said it would be potentially dangerous to design a car simply to pass such laboratory tests.
'It is misleading to measure a car's safety according to how it performs in a limited number of laboratory tests. We are, after all, protecting people, not dummies. A slight change in angle or position of impact can make a big difference to how a car performs in crash tests.
'Our goal at Saab is not to be the best in a specific test configuration like the so-called Auto Motor und Sport test. It could be very tempting to optimize the structure for such a test, but we at Saab are not tempted to fall into this trap.'
Saab carries out 40 different crash tests on any one design, compared with the 10 or so that are legally required. It uses the test results as development tools.
'The very same safety design engineers are doing the safety tests and also the technical investigations on accident cars,' said Nilsson. 'This leads us to an integrated teamwork which, to my knowledge, is unique among car manufacturers. The engineers who need the information get it right away without delay.'