Ensuring your noggin does not meet the dashboard of your VW Polo or Polo Vivo in the event of a crash is something the Kariega-based company takes quite seriously, having invested some R20-million on its new crash bag testing centre.

“Our promise to customers has always been high-quality vehicles, and that includes the safety standards of our products,” says Martina Biene, Volkswagen Group Africa chairperson and managing director. “This new facility is proof we remain committed to that promise. I am proud to open this airbag deployment centre and want to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to make it a reality.”

L – R: Gert van der Ham (Product Engineering), Réhan Strydom (Head of Product Engineering), Martina Biene (Chairperson and Managing Director), Nilesh Bhana (Product Engineering).

The new facility will boost the plant’s airbag testing capacity to 150% of its previous output, able to handle a total of 72 tests, comprising 10 dashboards, two curtain crash bag tests and 60 seats a week.

Of the total inestment, R14-million was spent on the climatic chamber in which the tests are performed, with the rest of the funds spent on building and electrical supply, cameras, air supply to the chamber, and lighting.

The climatic chamber makes use of electrical heaters and two refrigerant circuits to control the temperatures required for the different tests, which are conducted between 90 degrees to -40 degrees Celsius.

At the start of the testing process, parts are delivered, prepared for testing, labelled and photographed. From here, parts are conditioned in the climatic chamber at specified temperatures; once the required temperature has been reached and has stabilised, the crash bag is deployed using an electrical current.

Lights and cameras in the chamber are activated so the deployment can be captured on film, which is then carefully analysed so a report can be compiled and sent to the supplier. The actual deployment is done in 100 milliseconds; however, the preparation and soaking of parts lengthens the testing process to 6-8 hours per test.

Colin Windell


Find a VW Polo or Polo Vivo with all crash bags in fine fettle here.