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Euro NCAP's first test results - seven superminis - were published at a press conference in February 1997
All new car models are required by law to pass certain safety tests before they are sold, but these are only minimum standards.
Euro NCAP's tests have successfully encouraged car manufacturers to offer levels of safety that significantly exceed the statutory minimum.
In the early 1990s the European Experimental Vehicles Committee (EEVC), a body supported by governments and research organisations across Europe, put forward proposals for whole vehicle crash test procedures to be incorporated into European new vehicle type approval legislation.
EEVC's proposals for frontal and side impact crash tests to assess car occupant protection, together with a series of 'component' tests to assess injury risk to vulnerable road users hit by the front of cars, were strongly resisted by the car industry.
As early as 1994 the Department for Transport proposed the idea of a 'New Car Assessment Programme' (NCAP) in the UK based on the EEVC test procedures – a test programme aimed at publishing comparative consumer information should be easier to deliver than major change to European legislation that would directly affect all new car sales in Europe.
By the end of 1996 test and assessment protocols had been developed and a pilot phase of tests on seven superminis had been completed.
On the organisational side, the Swedish National Road Administration, the FIA, International Testing and the AA/RAC joined the programme leading to the formation of Euro NCAP and its inaugural meeting in December 1996.
Euro NCAP's first test results – the seven superminis tested for the Department for Transport pilot – were published at a press conference in February 1997.
There was a lot of media interest in the launch, fuelled by car manufacturers' criticism of the tests and ratings, which even went so far as to claim that a four star rating for occupant protection would be impossible to achieve because the assessment criteria were so severe.
There was a lot of media interest in the launch of Euro NCAP, fuelled by car manufacturers' criticism of the tests and ratings, which even went so far as to claim that a four star rating for occupant protection would be impossible to achieve because the assessment criteria were so severe.
Only a few months after the official launch, in July 1997, the Volvo S40 became the first car to achieve a four star occupant protection rating.
In June 2001, the Renault Laguna became the first car to be awarded 5 stars for occupant protection.
Five star ratings have become the norm since 2001 with most manufacturers aiming for this target when developing new models.
Euro NCAP is totally independent of the automotive industry and political control, and is an international association under Belgian Law. Euro NCAP's headquarters are in Brussels, but the tests are carried out in approved test laboratories across Europe.
Consumer groups across Europe are represented through their membership of International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT).
The Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre (Thatcham) is also a member of Euro NCAP and represents the interests of insurers in the UK.
The European Commission is an observing member of the Euro NCAP board and provides political support.
(updated 24 April 2013)