Peugeot deletes side airbags from Expert van amid semiconductor shortage

Peugeot has become the first car maker in Australia to remove life-saving side airbags due to the semiconductor shortage – despite van drivers spending more time on the road than most motorists.

French brand Peugeot is the first car company in Australia to make the contentious decision to delete airbags on certain models due to the global semiconductor shortage, cutting life-saving side airbags from its third best-selling model.

Applicable to all model variants except the Sport limited edition, Peugeot has deleted two of the four airbags normally fitted to its Expert delivery van – even though commercial vehicle drivers spend more time on the road than most motorists – to keep its production lines moving.

Side airbags protect occupants from severe side-impact crashes, which are often more deadly than head-on crashes because there is only the width of the door to absorb the impact, rather than vehicle front-end structures which incorporate crumple zones.

Safety experts are concerned the removal of side airbags in most variants of the Peugeot Expert (excluding the Sport edition) may catch some buyers unaware, given the safety aids are now regarded as a basic feature.

Peugeot is not the first car maker to delete safety technology from its vehicles to minimise interruptions to production caused by a chronic shortage of the tiny computer chips known as semiconductors.

However, other car brands – such as Ford and Renault in Europe – have previously chosen to delete certain active crash-avoidance features from some models – or luxury features such as heated seats – rather than delete airbags. In Australia, BMW has also deleted certain advanced safety features – including lane centring assist – from some cars, to keep assembly lines moving.

The world’s biggest automaker, Japanese car giant Toyota – the top-selling car brand in Australia for the past 19 years – said it would slow assembly lines rather than remove features from its vehicles, a decision welcomed by road safety advocates.

In a media statement issued yesterday, Peugeot’s Australian distributor said most variants of the Expert mid-size van – the exception being the limited-edition Sport variant – would be sold without side airbags from later this year.

The first Expert vans without side airbags – and adaptive cruise control, which has also been deleted from all variants except the base City and flagship Sport – are due to begin arriving in Australian showrooms between April and June.

A limited batch of Model Year 2022 vans – with side airbags and adaptive cruise control – was produced before the latest chip crunch came into effect, and are slated to arrive in Australia by the end of March. Drive has contacted Peugeot Australia to confirm how many vehicles are included in this batch.

All examples of the Peugeot Expert Sport limited edition are included in this batch, as they were “produced prior to the specification adjustment [deletion of features]”, and therefore retain side airbags and adaptive cruise control, a Peugeot Australia spokesperson confirmed.

Peugeot has deleted the two side airbags – which cover the occupant’s upper body and head – leave only the two frontal airbags to protect the driver and passenger in an accident.

The removal of side airbags makes the Peugeot Expert one of only a few new vehicles on sale in Australia without side-impact protection for front occupants.

Unlike the smaller Partner van, which offers six airbags, the Expert has never been available with curtain airbags, which cover the entire width of the window to further soften the blow in a side-impact collision.

Peugeot Australia has also deleted adaptive cruise control from all models except the base Expert City (and the limited-edition Sport).

However, autonomous emergency braking, which slams the brakes to minimise the impact or avoid a rear-end bumper-to-bumper crash if the driver isn’t paying attention, remains as standard equipment.

Peugeot Australia says the “specification adjustment” has been made to keep production lines moving amid the global shortage of semiconductors, used to control everything from infotainment systems to the deployment of active safety systems – and airbags.

“The side thorax airbags have been removed from the MY22 Peugeot Expert LCV range. However, the front driver and front passenger airbags will remain fitted as standard to the Peugeot Expert range,” a Peugeot Citroen Australia spokesperson said in a statement.

“Despite our continuous effort to deliver our customers the best possible experience, and in order to help minimise the impact on vehicle availability, there has been an adjustment in the specification of the MY22 Peugeot Expert LCV range.”

Peugeot Australia is yet to confirm if or when side airbags will return to the Expert van, with a spokesperson stating to Drive: “We cannot comment or speculate on future specification adjustment or production.”

The vehicle still meets its obligations under Australian Design Rules, the standards every new vehicle sold in Australia must pass before it can be registered for road use.

However, many customers may be unaware two of the Expert’s four airbags have been deleted, given that the fitment of such a technology is taken as a given in modern motor vehicles – including delivery vans.

The current-generation Peugeot Expert is yet to be tested by independent safety body ANCAP, or its overseas Euro NCAP counterpart, and lacks a formal safety rating – unlike Peugeot’s smaller Partner van, which carries a four-star rating, but retains all six of its airbags for 2022.

Were the Peugeot Expert to carry an ANCAP rating, it would be eligible to have points (and in turn, stars) deducted due to the deletion of the side airbags, given they are integral to protecting occupants during a side-impact crash – and account for a significant portion of ANCAP’s physical crash test criteria.

Last week, Australia’s peak crash safety body said car makers that remove safety features which form part of ANCAP test criteria amid the semiconductor shortages would have the safety ratings of their vehicles downgrades

Peugeot is believed to be one of the first car makers in the world to remove airbags from a vehicle to keep production lines moving due to the semiconductor shortage – and the first in Australia to remove such an important piece of technology.

Modern cars are equipped with between about 30 and 3000 semiconductors – with electric cars requiring more, given their complex batteries and electrics – used in infotainment systems and safety tech, as well as the onboard computers that manage the deployment of airbags.

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