• Sep 3, 2008
Click above to view video of the 2008 Smart fortwo crash test

Anybody who watches Autoline on Detroit or reads our Autoline on Autoblog posts will know that John McElroy is a certifiably nice guy. Bob Lutz is known more as a brash talker who isn't afraid to make his views known, regardless of what others may think. Both of them, though, are very closely attuned to the auto industry. The head product-honcho at GM and our very own Mr. Nice Guy share the opinion that the Feds should suspend their ever-increasing crash-testing standards for a few years. If a car is safe enough for our European relatives, it should be safe enough for us, right? In reality, this is not the case, as the U.S. standards differ enough from those across the pond that a car sometimes needs to be designed specifically to pass one or the other. For this reason, the Chevy Beat won't be sold on U.S. soil.

To complete the deal, McElroy also suggests doing the same for environmental standards. As with crash tests, though both the U.S. and the European regulations are strict, they don't quite match. Therefore, many cars -- especially those equipped with diesel engines -- can't be sold in the States despite being available in Europe. Lutz doesn't specifically touch on this point, but we'd hazard a guess that he'd go along with it as well.

[Source: Wards Auto]


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  • 45 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Many companies build their cars to the tougher U.S. standards... including GM. There are no structural differences between an Opel Astra and a Saturn Astra.

      If GM would have had the foresight to design the Beat to meet the tougher U.S. standards, they would have a hit on their hands. The problem is: they thought they were saving a few bucks.

      Spilled Milk... cue the crying.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Some cars aren't supposed or NEED to be "tough".

        As Kowell said, in Europe we don't have 16 year old blondes driving around in Hummers and Escalades.

        What can I say, sucks to be in the US for small fun cars ;)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I agree with many of you who think this is a really stupid idea. GM gets caught off guard all the time because they don't consider all the possibilities or look ahead. Why not simply engineer the vehicles to pass the toughest safety regulations in the world? Then the cars can be sold anywhere. It's not like the U.S. government keeps these standards secret where GM doesn't have access to them. Why should our safety be compromised because an automaker can't get their act together? That's taking a serious step backward. If something like this act of stupidity gets passed, it should contain a condition that Bob "Mr. Maximum" Lutz and all his beloved family members drive the smallest of these safety challenged vehicles to work each day down the most semi infested routes. I'm sure his view on this issue would change drastically. What an arrogant and egotistical idiot. I used to have a lot of respect for him, but that respect keeps diminishing each time he spews this sort of stupidity.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Um, you do realize they have semis and other large vehicles on the roads in Europe and other countries, right? True though, they don't have the number of large passenger vehicles (ie: trucks and SUVs) on the roads that we have here in the US, but at the same time they probably also have far better driver training/education programs than here in the US.

        You do also realize that MOST auto companies, including the Import Big 3, have US-specific models that differ in design from their "global" models, right? It's not like GM is the only one.

        Everyone always whines about how big and heavy cars have been getting, and how in some cases fuel economy is worse than it was 10-20 years ago. Well guess what, that's what happens when you keep making the safety regulations stricter and stricter -- you get bulkier, heavier cars. Sure you could use exotic materials that are lighter and just as strong, but that greatly increases production cost.
      • 6 Years Ago
      1. To whoever said we don't have big trucks in Europe - sure, all our goods are still transported by horse and cart.
      2. Is it true that crash testing in the US is done without seatbelts still?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually, it's the other way around, what matters is the "damage" to the dummies, not to the car itself, this is only significant as a potential cause of the former.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The dummies in the vehicles during a crash test don't really have all that much to do with the results anyway. It's really about the deformation of the vehicle.
      • 6 Years Ago
      So if this goes through, it means hat the US will get access to some nice European cars faster. Sounds like a good deal to me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      1. Chances are that if it's a question of Lutz and regulations, if he's for it I'm against it, and vice versa.

      2. Any company can build a single car that can be sold world wide if they want to - they just make the decision not to. Chevy could have done this with the Beat but made the decision not to. Stop whining because you make poor choices and now have to live with them.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't get it -- how does this help the country or the road user? Does the US market need -- or will it substantially benefit from -- the sale of Euro market cars?

      McElroy is a bright guy and I listen to his opinion as a credible authority. I'm in no hurry to disagree with him, but I think relaxing safety or emissions regulations is a one-sided deal. Let's relax the testing, reduce the size of the bureaucracies, but greatly increase the penalty to the car makers if they even think of bringing unsafe or unclean vehicles into a market. Let them try their "it's easier to pay the fines and court costs than worry about a few exploding gas tanks" but let's make those fines severe -- let's start at $1B and work up from there. If they bring in a diesel and it's spitting carcinogens into our kids' lungs, they're out of business and the US gets billions. I think that might work. But penalties of a few thousand or the cost of recalling a million cars because the brakes might not work, well, that's just an acceptable cost of business to these people.

      Sure, there's cool cars over there and I bet a lot of money goes to "waste" with companies building market-specific cars or not selling in the US because of absurd diesel emissions or state-specific regulations that just cost money and exist only because we're silly enough to allow the government to bloat. And when car makers build unsafe or unclean cars, where's the penalty system? Or is it all about revenue?

      But what's the benefit? Will the environment benefit? Will the consumer or other road users benefit? Will the makers be required to pass on their savings if they're allowed to reduce their costs due to fewer model variants for specific geographies? Is this really what's causing GM and Ford to lose billions, for Toyota to lower its targets, for Honda to sell different cars to different markets? And how long will it take US regulators to hire more people for more needless busy-work from the red-tape merchants to decide what overseas standards are "equivalent?" These people are cut from the same maternity-wear (bloat) cloth as the FDA and numerous other bureaucrats who hit the "FAIL" button on a daily basis and just apologize for the lead paint on baby toys or waiting a few more years before deciding that BPA really is harmful. And should we trust overseas regulators that continue to allow the manufacture of Thalidomide years after it's found to cause birth defects?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Do NOT fall for this propaganda paid for by the Insurance lobbyists. They want to stop safety for profiteering. Misery = money.

      Cross reference all in congress who support the moritorium on crash standards with the campaign contributions from the Insurance industry.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If you want to call getting more fuel-efficient vehicles approved for sale in the US profiteering, then yeah...

        It's not like they're trying to do away with seat belts or air bags or something, merely pointing out that the disparity between the safety regulations in North America and the REST OF THE WORLD limits the availability of vehicles for the NA market, particularly when it comes to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Seriously, what's the issue in wanting to align European and US crash test and emissions standards? How is that a bad thing?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm in favor of this. No point in globalization if the production standards aren't the same.

      I think this should also be true for manufacturing and safety standards in China, but I'm certain we'll touch on that some other day.
        • 6 Years Ago
        >Randy

        have you seen those chinese car crash test in slow motion ? awsome death traps! god forbid if you ever get in accident in one of those, add some mayo and tomato, you got a nice human sandwitch !
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, and that's the point of my post! If China is building death traps and can't get them in the US Market, it makes it easier for them by stopping the progress of safety!

        I think cars are safe enough at this point, I mean if we keep going with safety regulations, it'll be NASA type builds that cover 99.9999999% of every possible accident and they'll cost a fortune!

      • 6 Years Ago
      The problem with diesel engines in the US doesn't come from environmental standards...

      It comes from almost 3rd world fuel standands, sadly...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yes, we need matching standards with Europe to simplify the importation of efficient gas and diesel small vehicles and to reduce the cost of custom units to suit one market or the other. For example, the US version of the Honda Fit has a longer (uglier) nose that is likely required to suit US bumper regs.

      The majority of vehicle safety, design, and emissions standards should be globalized. If the car market is a global one, then the standards must be as well.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually, BoneHeadOtto is right, in Europe, we don't have to worry about being hit by 18 wheelers (and large Hummers); ...since European semis are 12 wheelers (2+4+2+2+2)! ;)
        • 6 Years Ago
        europeans also have those regulations for pedestrians. Those likely changed the shape of the fit as well.

        But we dont need to lower US regulations to European. Why not just make the car to meet all the regulations. I know that getting in a wreck in the US, vs London, vs Autobaghn are totally different scenarios. In Europe you dont have to worry about being hit by 18 wheelers and large Hummers. In the US you do. The the US we dont hit pedestrians all the time, in Europe they do.
        • 6 Years Ago
        LMAO at BoneHeadOtto...I was just about to respond in same way as Swede. Europe combines every kind of imaginable way of driving. Whether extremely high speed on autobahns, city driving w/ pedestrians, sharing roads with trucks etc etc.

        We just need to have our government busybodies stop screwing things up. Have a same standard with Europe, relax importation laws, and call it a day. All other artificial mongering is just dumb.
        • 6 Years Ago
        ...And since Hummers (H1, H2) are heavier than 3.5 tons, you need at least: C1 license for cargo and/or D1 for passengers, plus E for >750kg trailers (all with minimum age of 21), on top of "car" B license.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hey, here's an idea - Maybe along with standardizing safety requirements we could also provide adequate driver education so that people would have a better chance of avoiding an accident instead of surviving it.
      And maybe along with standardizing emissions standards, we could target all the other sources of pollution along with the automobile, or have emissions tests for everyone, not just some.
        • 6 Years Ago
        But, ......that would ........make sense.
      • 6 Years Ago
      In a free market, the consumer chooses how safe a car should/can be. Everyone always says, the 5 star thing is a crock because nobody buys unless it has a high rating, and getting one is easy. So, I guess you can just remove all safety regs then, looks like the free-market chose safety anyway, and if they don't, more power to them. The scared-to-death-to-drive demographic will always exist. Time to give about 30000 bureaucrats the axe and the rest of us will be better off.
        • 6 Years Ago
        We don't live in a fully free market; never have, never will.

        It is unconscionable and morally abhorrent to say, 'Let's take away mandated safety features, because people who want them will pay for them.' First, most people live life believing that the worst will never happen to them -- almost all people are incorrigibly optimistic in that regard. That's just human nature. More to the point, many people are limited in their spending power; thus, they might feel pressured to skip important safety features if they're optional extras. By contrast, if they're part of the car as standard, people will either pony up or buy a smaller or used model (which would still be safer than a vehicle w/ no safety equipment, at all. Your proposal would mean that rich people could have a safe car, and the rest of the country could ride around in death-traps. That gets at one of the fundamental role of governments: protecting the citizens from readily-avoidable dangers. People should not have to choose between transport and safety. They should get both.

        If you want to be purely utilitarian about it, consider this additional point: what happens when a low-income person driving one of these no-safety-mandated cars gets into an accident and is brought into an ER with horrible injuries? You do know who winds up paying for that, when a night in ER can run to $100k, right, and that's before repeated surgeries? I'll give you a hint -- it's the public.
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