Motorists given poor quality car safety adviceThree in four car dealers fail Which? test

30 August 2007

Car dealers could be putting customers’ safety at risk by giving them poor quality advice, Which? Online reveals today.

Undercover researchers posing as potential customers visited 16 UK dealerships to see what dealers knew about their products.

Each pretended to own a popular small family hatchback and asked dealers three safety questions about the cars.

However, although the dealers should have be able to explain any of the features on these vehicles, just one in four answered all of our questions satisfactorily.

Inconsistent advice

Our researchers found that dealers gave inconsistent advice when asked about carrying a six-month-old baby on the front-passenger seat. Fitting a rearward-facing child car seat in front of an active airbag could result in injury or death. 

Electronic stability control (ESC) can prevent drivers from losing control of a car, but dealers were often unclear about its benefits and whether it was fitted as standard.

‘Active’ head restraints can reduce whiplash, but many of the dealers did not know what they were and which cars had them.

We believe that dealers’ advice must improve so that car buyers aren't sold short on safety.

Safety features

Which? Online Editor Malcolm Coles said: ‘Car safety may be streets ahead of where it was ten years ago, but too many important safety features are optional.

‘As many shoppers have a very limited knowledge of what safety kit they need, getting good advice from a dealer is crucial.

‘Our research shows it’s a lottery as to whether customers get the right information and that simply isn’t good enough. Dealerships must take more responsibility to ensure that their staff are trained to give proper advice.’