Sports utility vehicles are booming in China, the world's largest auto market. But as Ryan Brooks reports, some carmakers are cutting key safety features to try and undercut the opposition on price.
They may be rolling out of showrooms at a blistering rate... But many SUVs in China are coming at a serious cost: Safety. Several local brands are fighting to undercut each other in a market that grew more than 50 percent last year... And to keep their vehicles affordable, they're leaving out features that could save lives - selling them only as more expensive add-ons. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS BEIJING CORRESPONDENT, JAKE SPRING, SAYING: "Many SUVs in China especially Chinese brands don't offer a technology called electronic stability control. Electronic stability control is more essential in SUVs because they have a higher center of gravity than a car, which places them at greater risk of flipping over. Basically, if the SUV starts to skid, the technology can rebalance the car. Bosch estimates that roughly 43% percent do not have this technology." It may look like a devious sales tactic - but according to Chinese law, the SUV makers aren't actually doing anything wrong. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS BEIJING CORRESPONDENT, JAKE SPRING, SAYING: "Electronic stability control isn't a legal requirement, but by the same token, anti-lock breaks in China aren't a requirement, and in general safety features don't face the same requirements as they do in developed markets like the United States or Europe. That's common for developing markets. For example in India, air bags are not a requirement." Stability control became a hot topic in the U.S. after several accidents involving Ford Explorers. That led to new safety regulations, which authorities estimate to have saved more than 2000 lives. China hasn't had that kind of wake-up call yet... Experts say crash data in the country is either unavailable, or unreliable.