Euro NCAP celebrates its 20th anniversary

Euro NCAP celebrates its 20th anniversary


More than 78,000 lives were saved since the launch of Euro NCAP’s tough crash safety tests 20 years ago this week. Euro NCAP has published over 630 safety ratings. some 1,800 cars were crash-tested. The organisation collectively spent over 160 million Euro to make cars safer.

The first tests exposed safety failings in top-selling family cars. They forced a fundamental rethink in the way vehicles were designed to prevent accidents and save lives. Now 9 out of 10 cars sold on the European market have a Euro NCAP rating. The motor industry actively supports the development of new requirements for the top safety ratings.

The results of crash tests of two family cars built 20 years apart underline the huge advances in vehicle safety since 1997. Safety technologies that were non-existent (or optional at most) are now standard on all cars sold in Europe.

“We are very proud that Euro NCAP’s programme of safety tests has achieved major, life-saving improvements in cars. It helped Europe reach the lowest road fatality rate for any region in the world”, said Secretary General Michiel van Ratingen.

The first Euro NCAP crash test results came out on 4th February 1997. Then the program had FIA’s backing as well as that of the UK and Swedish governments. Until then car makers had to meet basic legislative crash test requirements for new cars. It was impossible for consumers to compare new cars’ safety.

Euro NCAP’s programme was the first time that realistic tests conducted in Europe by independent experts

The results sparked outrage from consumer groups, members of the public and the media.

In the first round of tests of seven popular ‘supermini’ sized cars, the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo each achieved three stars out of the then-maximum of four. The result was based on protection levels offered to adult occupants.

The top-selling Rover 100 achieved only one star. Fiat Punto, Nissan Micra, Opel Corsa and Renault Clio – only two stars. None scored more than 2 points on pedestrian protection.

Leading car manufacturers attacked the tests. They claimed the tests were so severe that it was ‘impossible’ for a car to achieve four stars. Five months later Volvo’s S40 became the first four-star car for occupant protection.

The first Chairman of Euro NCAP and Chairman of Global NCAP was Max Mosley. He pointed out that Euro NCAP is now firmly part of the automotive mainstream.

Euro NCAP tests became even more demanding. Cars can now achieve a maximum of five stars. These are not just for how they protect occupants and pedestrians in a collision. Scores are also for the car’s ability to avoid a crash in the first place. Tests represent real-life accident scenarios that could result in death or injury.

The Euro NCAP stands for European New Car Assessment Programme. It was founded in 1997 by the Transport Research Laboratory for the UK Department for Transport. The inspiration came from the New Car Assessment Program of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1979.