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Safety check: Are some car models sold in Latin America held to lower standards?

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, The views expressed are the author's own.

"Four of Brazil's five bestselling cars failed their independent crash tests," [reports an] AP article on how cars in Brazil fail safety tests. [It] is probably the most important read out of Latin America this weekend.
 Car companies around the world appear to be cutting corners in models sold in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Lower government safety standards and poor monitoring mean that many of the most economical cars sold in Brazil fail tests that are required for US or European consumers.
 It's likely that these safety failures on the part of both car manufacturers and Brazilian government have contributed to thousands of avoidable deaths on the country's roads. The death statistics from car crashes do not receive the same attention as a brutal massacre or a factory collapse.

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 To be clear, this is not just a story about Brazil's manufacturing industry. It's not just cars made in Brazil, but cars sold in Brazil, including many that are imported.

From the article:

The Mexico-produced Nissan March compact sold in Latin America received a two-star rating from Latin NCAP, while the version sold for about the same price in Europe, called the Micra, scored four stars. The crash tests found the Latin American model had a weak, unstable body structure that offered occupants little protection in even non-serious wrecks. Factories in Mexico are producing essentially the same car for both regions, but with lower safety standards for the Brazilian market.

 Automakers aren't going to change their practices until politicians and regulators in Brazil and elsewhere in the region force them to do so. Political systems aren't going to move until citizens pressure them.

James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant based in Managua, Nicaragua, who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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