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Episode 533: Why Car Safety Is A Trade Barrier

Safety first.
Yves Forestier
Sygma via Getty Images
Safety first.

This episode originally aired in 2014.

We go to the auto show to find out why can't you build a car that can be driven anywhere in the world.

Cars could be cheaper. Car companies could make more money. But standing in the way is a disagreement over what counts as "safe enough." Europe has one answer. America has another. Neither is more safe than the other. They're just different.

This frustrates car companies because it makes their jobs harder. It means extra work designing two versions of all kinds of parts of a car, from the windshield wipers to the airbag, which means they need two versions of a dashboard to house the airbag and so on. This ends up making it harder and more expensive to sell cars internationally. It's like an extra trade barrier on cars, that nobody on either side wants.

So why can't America and Europe just sort it out?

Music: "Down the Rabbit Hole," "Multiply," and "Unstoppable Feeling."

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Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.
Zoe Chace explains the mysteries of the global economy for NPR's Planet Money. As a reporter for the team, Chace knows how to find compelling stories in unlikely places, including a lollipop factory in Ohio struggling to stay open, a pasta plant in Italy where everyone calls in sick, and a recording studio in New York mixing Rihanna's next hit.