Ford’s recent announcement confirming the standard inclusion of autonomous emergency braking across the Ranger line-up was met with genuine enthusiasm from potential owners, the media and casual industry observers, with good reason.
Vehicles like the Ranger are now successfully marketed towards family buyers. In March, Australia’s three best-selling models were utes. The HiLux leads the way, followed by the Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton. The presence of the ute is continuing to grow in a contracting market which is a remarkable trend.
With success comes greater scrutiny, and increasingly the magnifying glass is turned to safety features meaning it’s no longer acceptable for manufacturers to skimp on said safety. When it comes to the latest utes, they should be, but often aren’t, judged like any other family car when the safety section of the spec sheet is analysed. For too long, close enough has been good enough.
For some bizarre reason, the market doesn’t judge commercial vehicles as harshly as it would a typical SUV or passenger car. Take the Kia Stinger as an example, upon release the entry-level models were missing AEB resulting in a three-star ANCAP score. Obviously, this wasn’t a good look and Kia quickly responded by including AEB across the Stinger range as standard. Due to the current popularity of the dual-cab ute, the body style seems to have a Teflon coating where criticisms of absent safety kit struggle to stick, but the times they are a-changin'.
For the safety conscious there are options. Along with the Ranger, the Ssangyong Musso, Mercedes-Benz X-Class and higher grades of the new Mitsubishi Triton are equipped with AEB.
Disappointingly, the HiLux has the tech in other markets but it is yet to reach our shores and there’s no timeline for when it can be expected.
From the mainstream, the Mazda BT-50, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara and Holden Colorado are also void of AEB.
Now a variety of excuses will be served up as to why so many of the big names are behind the times, but none of them really hold any weight. Poor product planning, it’s as simple as that.
When safety is the issue, the Volkswagen Amarok is one of the worst. Not only is it missing AEB, it still isn't equipped with side airbags which should immediately strike it off the list of sensible buyers.
Adding insult to what could be a serious injury (or worse) the Amorak is not what one would call cheap. The company proudly boasts that the majority of its Amorak sales are of the V6 models which eclipse the $50k mark. Unacceptable is the only word to describe a car at that price lacking safety kit that can be had as standard on sub $20k models.
Regardless of the category – passenger car, SUV, or light commercial – safety should be equally weighted and scrutinised by buyers. The old “it’s just a ute” needs to be made redundant in 2019 given the context of the local market.
At the time of writing, Australia’s best-selling model is missing safety tech that should be standard. Utes now fill a much wider role and this should be reflected in the expectations of equipment levels.