There are innumerable design and engineering hurdles to clear if you're an automaker intent on selling your wares worldwide, but few are more core to the business than safety. China knows this all too well. For years now, we've been hearing how the nation was planning to go global with its vehicles – several companies have even gone so far as to hold press conferences at U.S. auto shows.
And while there are many reasons why you don't have a Chery or BYD dealer down the street yet, China's expansionist efforts have been hampered by the persistent perception of poor automotive safety standards, an impression not helped by the viral spread of a number of frightening crash-test videos on the internet (like the 2007 Brilliance BS6 shown above and after the jump). But that may be about to change. According to new reports, the China New Car Assessment Program (C-NCAP) is coming in for a comprehensive overhaul.
A raft of changes are expected to go into effect in July of 2012, and the revised standards are expected to include new low-speed crash testing and whiplash standards. In addition, the safety of rear seat occupants will be considered for the first time (previously, only the safety of front seat occupants was measured). The more stringent crash test standards will reportedly also weigh the presence of other safety systems, including electronic nannies like stability control. Overall, the new standards are expected to more closely mimic the standards of other markets (namely Europe's NCAP), including tougher scenarios like the 40 mph offset frontal crash test.
China Car Times reports that only 59 new models have been awarded five-star ratings under current C-NCAP standards – about 43 percent of those models tested since 2006. As Chinese automakers are already having a tough time meeting current crash test regulations, meeting the new standards that go into effect next year will likely pose a very serious challenge. But while any Chinese automaker looking to play in established markets like North America or Europe will still have to pass local crash test standards, they'll almost certainly have a better shot at good results – and better public perception – if the regulations in their home country are similar.