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One of the great industry comebacks

This comeback highlights the value of independent crash testing. In 2009 The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Great Wall Motors (GWM) V240 utility, an extremely low 2-star crash test rating. 

ANCAP is an independent, non-regulatory, consumer information programme that publishes safety ratings for a range of new vehicles entering the Australian and New Zealand markets. 

The Chinese designed and manufactured the V240 ute, introduced to the Australasian market as a cheap alternative to the more well established and popular brands such as Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Isuzu and Mitsubishi which have dominated the new vehicle ute market for many years. Toyota in particular have also always had a good reputation for being in high demand on the second-hand market and retain high resale values after years of hard slog and clocking up big kilometres. 

One of the selling pitches used by GWM sales staff at the time of the launch of the V240 was questioning potential buyers on why they would buy second hand when they could get behind the wheel of a brand new GWM ute for a similar or better price, as a second-hand alternative.  

While the V240 was fitted with what transpired to be token safety features such as dual front airbags and antilock brakes, the vehicle offered little in the way of passenger safety when the ANCAP test was conducted. Hence the “nice try but you must do better” 2-star rating. 

Sales suffered accordingly after the ANCAP tests were revealed, while the Chinese automobile industry in general, came into question as to whether they had the ability or mindset to build vehicles of a high-quality all-round standard.  

In 2017, a face-lifted GWM ute renamed a Steed, fitted with a number of claimed, improved safety features (included multiple airbags and electronic stability control) was once again put through the ANCAP test programme. To the horror of company representatives, the Steed scored an identical 2-star score rating as the previous model. The basic summary from ANCAP, once the results were analysed, was while the updated vehicle was fitted with added safety features, there were no real changes or improvements made to the vehicles core structure which put occupants at high risk including young children, due to the lack of top tether child restraints.    

The ANCAP chief executive officer at the time criticised the Steed’s crash safety performance and took a swipe at the company’s claims that the ute would offer “outstanding levels of performance, value, safety and comfort”. 

Failure, then Success for the Cannon Ute!

 It was a massive blow to the credibility of the brand and its local distributors who were desperate to break into the lucrative Australian and New Zealand markets.  

Great Wall Motors Australia representatives said at the time it was taking immediate steps to try and rectify the situation and would be setting up a response team to investigate what needed to be done to improve the ANCAP performance of the product. 

Did they listen? Well, move onto 2021 and an all-new GWM Cannon ute was taken to ANCAP HQ to face the same independent test to see if in fact the new was any better than the old.  

The result was an outstanding top 5-star rating which highlighted GWM willingness and commitment to build an affordable and competitive ute without compromising on safety. 

ANCAP also acknowledged the high level of standard safety tech in the Cannon, which included autonomous emergency braking, emergency lane keeping, and more.

While independent crash programmes like ANCAP have had their share of critics over the years the real winners are the consumers who can easily judge vehicles on many criteria including independent crash test safety ratings. 

The GWM Cannon can now easily stand on its merits in terms of safety and price amongst other attributes and enter that new versus second hand debate with loads of credibility. 

Below is a summary of headings of the ANCAP testing programme:

Frontal offset test

The frontal offset test simulates hitting another car of the same mass travelling at the same speed. 40% of the car, on the driver’s side, makes contact with a crushable aluminium barrier at 64km/h.

Side impact test

The side impact test consists of running a 950kg trolley into the driver’s side of the vehicle at 50km/h. The trolley has a crushable aluminium face to simulate the front of another vehicle.

Pole test

In the pole test the car is propelled sideways at 29km/h into a rigid pole aligned with the driver’s head.

Pedestrian test

The pedestrian tests are carried out to estimate head and leg injuries to pedestrians struck by a vehicle at 40km/h. These represent as high as 30% of crashes in some urban areas.

Whiplash test

The whiplash test is conducted in two parts – a geometric measurement of the head restraint, and a dynamic test using the vehicle seat mounted to a test sled.


SAT assessment

In addition to minimum performance requirements in physical crash tests, ANCAP also requires vehicles to be fitted with certain safety features & safety assist technologies (SAT) – head-protecting airbags, electronic stability control (ESC), emergency brake assist (EBA) etc.

The photos below clearly show the difference in build quality after undertaking the ANCAP test.