Stability control 'should be standard'Thatcham backs calls for standard car safety kit

22 August 2006

There have been fresh calls for carmakers to fit electronic stability control as a standard feature on all new cars — this time from Thatcham, the motor insurance industry’s research centre.

We’re delighted to see Thatcham adding its voice to this growing safety campaign. Last year, crash-test organisation Euro NCAP advised car buyers to ensure their next car had stability control fitted, and in March this year, Which? declared it was high time for carmakers to make it standard fit on all mainstream new cars.

How it works

Stability control is a crash-prevention system, which kicks in to help the driver in skid situations and when the car swerves suddenly to avoid a hazard. Sensors around the car can detect the course of the vehicle and help bring it back on track by braking individual wheels (see the diagram below for more on this). Many independent studies from Europe and the US have shown it can help prevent up to a third of all road accidents, and Thatcham claims that standard-fitment could save more than 400 lives and 3,000 serious injuries in Britain each year.

George Marshall-Thornhill, Which? senior motoring researcher, said: ‘The benefits of stability control are clear and it’s an indispensable safety aid to motorists — we’ve seen the benefits time and time again in our own car tests. However, it’s confusingly called different things by different manufacturers (including ASC, DSC, DTSC, ESC, ESP, ESP+, VDC, VSA and VSC), which doesn’t help consumers when they’re comparing cars. Making it standard equipment in any car would render this problem redundant, of course, as well as keeping all road-users safer.’

Life-saving system 'costs only £50'

As stability control is an enhancement of anti-locking brakes (ABS) — which is now virtually standard on new cars — Thatcham estimates the manufacturing cost is as little as £50 per vehicle. However, fewer than 40 per cent of all new cars currently sold here have it fitted as standard, compared with more than 90 per cent in Sweden and 60 per cent in Germany.

Only Audi, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche and Volvo currently fit stability control as standard across all their UK models. Most other manufacturers offer it only in some models, or at extra cost (usually between £100 and £400). Disappointingly, five carmakers still don’t fit stability control to any of their models — stand up Chevrolet, Daihatsu, Lotus, Proton and Suzuki. Motorists can check whether their vehicle range, or one which they are considering buying, has stability control by going to the Thatcham website.