Motor Show 1993: The need for security has changed priorities: Martin Derrick reports on the new developments in car safety that have been prompted by the demands of purchasers

IF OUTRIGHT performance and the flaunting of wealth were the icons of the automotive world in the 1980s, the coming of the recession has radically changed what the all-important customer sees as his or her main priorities in the 1990s.

One of the considerations rising higher up buyers' lists of priorities is car security, at a time when crime rates are soaring. And such is the competition in the motor industry that all manufacturers are having to take note of - and respond to - those changing customer demands, far faster than they have ever done before.

Six years ago, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) first introduced its Anti-Theft Award to persuade manufacturers to do more to make it harder to break into and steal cars.

One of Britain's leading manufacturers' submissions for the award read along the lines of: 'Thousands of customers buy the cars as we produce them now. Therefore we must be producing the cars customers want. Therefore there is no need to introduce better locks, alarms or immobilisers.'

Happily, that company's arrogance was not shared by all, in particular Vauxhall - the winner of the first award and a winner three times since - has shown not only that it is possible to improve security considerably and cost-effectively, but also to use that increased security as a positive marketing benefit.

Almost every Vauxhall model is now fitted with a formidable array of theft prevention equipment and many improvements to the specification of all models were made in 1992, which made Vauxhall once again the clear winner of the latest BVRLA Anti-Theft Award.

Vauxhall was also commended for the introduction of a comprehensive anti-theft package available on the Astra van at a time when thefts of commercial vehicles are also causing great concern.

The judges took into consideration the fact that more than pounds 1.2m was spent by Vauxhall in 1992 on consumer advertising designed to create greater awareness of the need for theft prevention.

Vauxhall has spent pounds 16m to date on research and development costs on dead lock and alarm systems, and none of it is going to waste, judging by the results of a recent pan-European survey carried out by Europcar.

This reveals that 41 per cent of British motorists have personally experienced car theft or vandalism, with theft from the car being the most common crime.

Of those affected, 51 per cent have experienced stolen contents, 36 per cent have had their vehicles stolen and 30 per cent have been the victims of car vandalism. It is no wonder that security is of major importance to today's car buyers.

Citroen has responded by fitting new keypad immobilisers and two-way alarms - already standard on most XM and Xantia cars - to many of its ZX models. This makes the ZX the first car in its class to enjoy such protection.

Many other manufacturers are now beginning to fit more secure locks, alarms and immobilisers and there is also a healthy after-sale market in security-related items. One of the more interesting recent developments, offered by the AA, uses silent homing signal technology to defeat the thieves.

Called Tracker, the system consists of a hidden transponder which, once activated when the car is reported stolen, allows the police to pinpoint the exact whereabouts of the vehicle.

'Car crime dominates the crime figures, threatens lives and plays a significant part in road accident statistics,' says John Newing, Chief Constable of Derbyshire. 'Tracker has a proven record and will provide an opportunity to improve recovery and catch offenders. By reducing car crime, it will help improve police effectiveness generally.'

A second important buying consideration is now the safety of modern cars. The preoccupation centres upon passive safety - the protection offered in case of an impact - rather more than on active safety - the ability to avoid an accident in the first place thanks to ABS brakes, or improved handling, or improved tyre technology, for example.

As far as passive safety goes, almost all leading manufacturers now offer airbags either as standard or as optional features, while most new cars also get the added protection of side-impact beams to provide greater protection to the doors.

What cannot be seen is under the skin of the latest models, where highly sophisticated CAD/CAn technology allows manufacturers to greatly improve the solidity of the passenger cell while ensuring that as much as possible of the force involved in an impact is absorbed by other parts of the car.

At any big motor show, the concept cars now concentrate not on high-performance pipe dreams, but on environmentally sensitive small vehicles producing minimal emissions - reflecting another preoccupation with the car buying public of the 1990s.

While it is generally accepted that no car can be 100 per cent environmentally green, there is much that can still be done to improve matters without taking away the fundamental advantages of personal transport.

Electric cars remain some years away because battery technology has still not yet reached the point of providing good performance and reasonable range.

But the continuing emphasis on refining current petrol and diesel engine technology to produce still greater efficiency and still fewer emissions continues - as can be seen on the Citroen stand at the London Motor Show where their AX-ECO reveals how 100mpg together with minimal emissions is now possible.

This car will never go into production because its Kevlar body panels, while showing the potential of lightweight construction, would be far too expensive for a volume car.

But Audi will next year launch an all-aluminium car which takes the potential of recycling a big step further and offers the benefits of lightweight construction which in turn improves fuel consumption considerably.

There is still a long way to go before the motor industry can boast it has come up with a totally safe, secure and green car, but the pace of development is hotting up.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game