The design is modern for the segment.
The Datsun Go design is modern for the segment.

DATSUN, the budget brand of Nissan, is embroiled in a storm of controversy after its new car, the Go, failed a crash test.

Go was launched in SA last month and retails for R89,500. It has now achieved a zero rating and an international vehicle safety body is calling for withdrawal of the car from the markets, which include SA, and has urged the company to stop selling it.

Initial reactions to its launch were mixed after it emerged that the car does not feature what many regard as basic safety equipment in the form of an anti-lock braking system (ABS) or airbags.

"The Datsun Go has a body structure so weak that it is pointless to fit an airbag," said David Ward, the secretary-general of international vehicle safety body GlobalNCAP.

The full crash test report on the vehicle is even more scathing. "The Datsun Go scored zero stars for adult occupant protection and just two stars for child occupant protection. The Datsun Go’s vehicle structure collapsed in the crash and was rated as unstable," it reads.

"The car’s lack of airbags meant that the driver’s head makes direct contact with the steering wheel and dashboard — the dummy readings indicate a high probability of life-threatening injuries."

GlobalNCAP chairman Max Mosley sent a letter to the chairman of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Carlos Ghosn, recommending what the company should do. "In these circumstances I would urge you to withdraw the Datsun Go from sale in India (and any other markets where it is being sold) pending a redesign of the car’s body shell to make it worthwhile to fit airbags," the letter reads.

Mr Ward said from London he was surprised that SA would allow the Go into the market.

Differences in global legislation mean that standards in one country can differ widely from those in another. SA has antiquated safety legislation, despite being a signatory to a 1958 United Nations agreement on safety standards. There is no crash test required for the granting of approval of new vehicles.

Datsun SA brand manager Des Fenner reaffirming the company’s commitment to safety. "We understand that safety is key and Nissan is going through the (Indian) test data. (But) the Datsun Go does meet all South African regulations."

Nico Vermeulen, director at the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers SA (Naamsa), said the organisation believed that there could be no compromise on vehicle safety standards. "It is paramount, so if there is a vehicle that does not comply, that needs to be looked at." Nissan SA is a member of Naamsa.