The motor industry has been accused of withholding a report that reveals US cars are substantially less safe than European vehicles – for fear that the findings would hamper the drive to harmonise safety standards as part of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal.
The major study was commissioned by the car industry to show that existing EU and US safety standards were broadly similar.
But the research actually established that American models are much less safe when it comes to front-side collisions, a common cause of accidents that often result in serious injuries.
The findings were never submitted – or publicly announced – by the industry bodies that funded the study.
Safety campaigners have said the research showed that trade negotiators would potentially be putting lives in danger by allowing vehicles approved in the US to be sold in Europe and vice-versa.
The news casts a further shadow over a global industry already in the spotlight following this week’s Volkswagen emissions scandal.
The Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) sponsored the research, announced in a joint press release last year alongside the European car lobby ACEA and the American Automotive Policy Council.
The auto giants represent the industry’s biggest names from Chrysler and Toyota to Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen.
Independent experts from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the SAFER transportation research centre at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, carried out the study. They are two of the leading traffic safety research centres in the world. Experts in France and at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory were also involved.
“ACEA remains confident that regulatory convergence can be achieved in TTIP while maintaining the current high level of safety performance in both the EU and the US,” the spokesperson said.
The investigation was announced to great fanfare last year: Robert Strassburger, AAM Vice President for vehicle safety, said it might be the most ambitious and complicated research effort the trade group has commissioned in the field of auto safety.