VOLKSWAGEN is finally looking to engineer rear curtain airbags for its popular Volkswagen Amarok ute.
However, the potentially life-saving features aren’t available on the just updated model – and aren’t likely to be until at least 2018.
“We are working on it … we are currently looking at it,” said Dr Jan Michel, Volkswagen’s global export sales director for commercial vehicles. “Australia is pushing for it. We know all the reasons … we all know SUV customers would like to have it. They compare the Amarok to SUVs and so ‘OK, this is maybe a feature we would like to have’.
“Therefore we put really a lot of pressure in our organisation to work on [rear side curtain airbags].”
Volkswagen Australia corporate communications general manager Paul Pottinger defended the decision to only fit the Amarok with airbags that protect front-seat occupants, arguing the ute had plenty of appeal beyond its airbag count.
“I don’t think anyone is hiding the fact of how many airbags we’ve got, but I think what people are interested in is the cylinders under the bonnet.”
The current Amarok is the only mainstream dual-cab ute on the market not to fit the potentially life-saving features to the rear seats.
It’s the legacy of a cost-saving exercise done when the Amarok was being developed prior to going on sale in 2011.
Back then, the leading independent crash testing authority, the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), decided not to test or award points for rear occupant protection, so Volkswagen engineers decided not to fit rear curtain airbags to some models, including the Amarok. Instead, the dual-cab version of the Amarok relies on a specially engineered safety cell built into its chassis to absorb the energy of a crash
NCAP and its Australasia offshoot ANCAP has since adjusted its testing, something that would see the just-released updated Amarok awarded four stars if it were retested today (because ANCAP doesn’t always reassess cars, the Amarok keeps its maximum five-star rating despite the safety oversight).
Michel acknowledged that the Australian voice was increasingly being listened to with Amarok because it is the single biggest market for the car globally.
“This is by far our biggest market,” he said. “The quality requirements of the customers … it’s challenging. That’s why we are looking for Australia, you can learn the most out of the market.”
A Volkswagen source told Wheels the carmaker’s Australian business had urged the Amarok’s development team to try and fit side-curtain SRS airbags as part of the mid-life overhaul of the trade ute, which includes giving it a more car-like interior that blurs the line even further between workhorse and family hauler.
The appeal stemmed from concerns that the Amarok would fall further behind competitors that are starting to offer more passenger car-like levels of comfort, safety and driver assistance technology that is not yet available to Volkswagen’s product.
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