Removal of safety features to reduce prices stirs controversy in Egypt auto market

Yara El-ganiny
9 Min Read

Ghabbour Auto (GB Auto) decision to offer the certain classes of the 2021 model of the Hyundai Elantra RB without airbags has stirred up controversy and heated debate in Egypt’s auto market.

GB Auto, the exclusive agent for the Hyundai brand in Egypt said that it is set to release the first two classes of the Elantra RB 2021 model on the Egyptian market without airbags, “to give consumers more opportunity to choose.”

The company said that it always strives to meet the needs of all customers by offering various categories.  GB Auto added that it has dispensed with some options in the first two categories to attract a larger segment of consumers. This would allow the company to offer these categories at competitive prices, due to the high cost of airbags.

It also said that it will offer the Hyundai Elantra RB in seven categories featuring a variety of options and luxuries depending on the category.

Shady Rayan, Chairperson of El Masria Auto, said that some car categories are offered for sale in Egypt without airbags, and remain widely accepted by consumers despite the lack of this basic safety feature. The removal of the airbag feature from these car categories allows them to be sold at lower prices, compared to other categories.

He said that pricing is a huge edge in Egyptian auto market, which is reflected in the sales of cars that fall in the lower price brackets. There is little to no regard paid to the safety specifications available in the car category.

Rayan added that these cars attract customers looking to purchase vehicles that will be used as taxis, as there is less of a focus on safety or luxury specifications among these consumers. He noted that the variety of car categories, with each presenting a different set of equipment, gives the consumer greater opportunity to choose according to their financial capabilities and needs.

However, some Egyptian consumers are fully aware of the importance of safety features in the vehicle, and prefer to purchase the highest-equipped categories, Rayan explained. He called on government agencies to issue a decision preventing the entry of any vehicle without standard safety specifications similar to other countries worldwide.

Rayan also said that it remains important to have even the most basic safety features, such as airbags and anti-lock braking systems (ABS), which significantly lower accident and injury rates.

Egyptian auto sales have been on rebounding since July, he said, following an extended period of stagnation due to the economic effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The rise in car sales came in conjunction with the start of the Egyptian government’s coexistence plan with the pandemic.

However, Rayan expected sales to slow in November, as the second wave of coronavirus infections is widely expected in Egypt.

Osama Abo El Magd

Osama Abo El Magd, Chairperson of the Egyptian Automotive Dealers Association, strongly criticised the removal of airbags and other safety features from vehicles to reduce prices. Instead, he suggested that other luxuries, such as air conditioning or electric windows, can be removed instead, rather than compromising on safety.

Abo El Magd said that most economical cars under EGP 200,000 price category are offered without airbags, due to the high cost of this feature which adds an estimated EGP 50,000 to the final price.

He indicated that the correction in market prices must come from the consumer end, as buyers tend towards purchasing cars without airbags or adequate safety features.

A recent report published online in the UAE highlighted the importance of airbag features in vehicles, and their importance for the safety of passengers. The report added that airbags are a mandatory car safety technology, designed specifically to secure the vehicle’s passengers from any serious injuries or fatal accidents.

The report also outlined the different types of airbags and the functions they serve, noting that the first type of the airbag, located on the sides, protect the driver and passengers from injuries and accidents on both sides of the car. It pointed out that advanced cars are equipped with side airbags,  also called curtain airbags, that protect the driver’s head from injury.

The second type is a lateral trunk airbag, fitted to the trunk on the door panel, which protects passengers from lower abdominal and pelvic injuries. The latest vehicles are equipped with two types of side trunk airbags, one in the vehicle’s lower chamber to protect the pelvic area and the other in the softer upper chamber to protect the rib cage.

Shady Rayan

The third type is a tube, or curtain, airbag, first installed in the BMW 7 series in 1998. This type of airbag was designed to protect the head from injuries and reduce the incidence of death and has been found to reduce injuries by as much as 45%. These airbags are particularly found in larger sized vehicles, such as SUVs and multi-purpose cars.

The report indicated that the fourth type of airbags are located around a person’s knee, and are designed to protect legs from serious injuries. They are installed at the bottom of the dashboard, directly in the front of the passenger’s knee. In the event of a collision, knee airbags fill the gap between the passenger’s knee and the dashboard, automatically protecting them from injuries.

There are also rear curtain airbags that protect occupants from side injuries and reduce fatalities. The first company to feature rear curtain airbags was Japanese brand, Toyota, which installed this feature in its new iQ Micro Car model in 2008.

The Emirati report added that there is frequently a type of cushion attached to seat cushions, to protect passengers and the driver from injuries, whilst also reducing mortality rates. It was first fitted around the seatbelt on the Toyota iQ, to protect passengers during a frontal collision. 

The central airbag is installed in the centre between the two front passenger seats. Again, Toyota was the first company to introduce central airbags in 2009, to protect passengers and reduce fatalities.

The report pointed out that there are safety belt airbags designed to protect passengers from injuries. During a collision, these airbags deploy on seat belts and increase the seat belt’s area to reduce possible injuries to the rib cage. The Mercedes ESF was the first car to be equipped with this feature in 2009.

The final type of airbag is focused on pedestrian safety, installed around the hard exterior of cars. It is designed to protect pedestrians from potential injuries and reduce fatalities. At the time of the collision, airbags deploy on the hard part of the vehicle around the bumper, the pillars and the edges of the hood. Volvo was the first to successfully introduce a pedestrian airbag into its new V40 model in 2012.

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