Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

'Death traps' avoid Aussie ban

NZ minister moves towards mandatory electronic stability control in car imports

Chery J11 after its ANCAP crash test. It scored  a two-star safety rating.
Chery J11 after its ANCAP crash test. It scored a two-star safety rating.

Cars banned from Australian roads due to safety concerns are still rolling into New Zealand, despite experts calling for a halt - and the Government admitting it needs to change.

Heavily advertised cars such as those from Great Wall Motors and Chery are no longer permitted in Australia without electronic stability control (ESC) - a technology which helps drivers maintain control on corners and slippery roads.

But the low-cost Chinese cars can still be imported to New Zealand.

This week a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport said that New Zealand law was likely to change.

Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse supports ESC and is talking with stakeholders on a proposal to make it mandatory.

ESC is widely promoted by the Automobile Association (AA) and the NZ Transport Agency as the most effective system in lowering fatal single-vehicle crashes and rollovers. This week the AA asked the ministry to make it mandatory.

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale said people on a budget were better off buying a used car with ESC than a new car without.

"European cars have had ESC as standard for 13 years and you can buy one second-hand for under $10,000.

"Our conservative analysis shows we would save at least 20 lives a year if all new cars had ESC."

Andy Knackstedt of the NZ Transport Agency said drivers should put ESC on their "must have" list when buying a new car. "Drivers are human, and we all make mistakes, but ESC can help to stop one of those mistakes becoming a fatal one."

Daniel Cotterill, a spokesman for Chery and Great Wall importer Ateco Automotive, said the Australian rules meant it was no longer economically viable to import cars into New Zealand without the technology.

Ben White from Simon Lucas Takapuna said the Great Wall fleet offered great value and he sold about five of the non-ESC X240 model each month. He said the safety had improved to a four-star rating.

Great Wall Motors launched in New Zealand in 2009 and had sold more than 3000 cars, utes and SUVs. Chery launched in 2011, marketed as the only new car for under $10,000.

Clive Matthew-Wilson of the online Dog and Lemon Guide said the cars were "death traps".

"The companies making these cars with two-star safety ratings have blood on their hands."

Scott and Kirsteen McConnachie and son Alastair with their Great Wall X240 SUV.
Scott and Kirsteen McConnachie and son Alastair with their Great Wall X240 SUV.

Farmers love SUV

Farming couple Kirsteen and Scott McConnachie love their Great Wall vehicle so much they bought a second one.

Kirsteen says she has no concerns with the new SUV and says it handles the metal roads leading to their Wellsford farm as well as any other 4WD.

"I hadn't heard of electronic stability control but I don't have any safety concerns with the Great Wall," Kirsteen said.

The McConnachies bought a Great Wall ute two years ago because they didn't want a lot of money tied up in a farm vehicle. The $22,000 price tag was the main drawcard and they were so impressed they went back two weeks ago and bought the SUV.

- Herald on Sunday

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