Things to Know
The Indian road ministry has said that passing minimum frontal and side crash tests will be mandatory for all new cars from October 2017. For new vehicles of existing models, the deadline will be October 2019. While the frontal crash tests will be at 56 kmph, the norms set for side crash tests will be 50 kmph. Both the standards will meet the international test norms that make vehicles safer for occupants. A Bharat New Car Assessment Programme is also being developed and will begin testing once the necessary laboratory capacity is available. Overall, it does seem that car drivers and passengers in India can look forward to a new safety regime. So then, now is as good a time as any to get the lowdown on safety basics.
So far, car manufacturers have been getting away with less for less, citing price sensitivity of consumers as a primary reason. As per this rationale, Indian consumers on the whole are fine with less safety features if this means that the car of their dreams becomes affordable. Another reason doled out by manufacturers is that inner-city road conditions in India are such
that the average speed of a vehicle is quite on the low side and hence safety features cannot be compared to global standards. (Are they trying to say that their small cars should not be driven on national highways, expressways, speedways and all those modern connectivity projects that allow you to speed?)
Post the crash test on five top-selling small-car brands in India by New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) early last year, several car manufacturers had claimed that the cars met the minimum required standards in the markets for which they were made. However, there was no clarity if these minimum standards were in sync with the United Nations’ minimum safety requirements. (In India it is not mandatory to follow the United Nations’ minimum crash-test standards.) Also, their claim was not backed by any proof that the driver and the passengers could feel ‘safe’ while driving the tested cars. Hence, saying that the cars met the standards did not really mean they were safe.
In January 2014, Global NCAP conducted the first-ever independent crash tests on some of India’s best-selling cars – Maruti Suzuki Alto 800, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, and Volkswagen Polo. All the cars chosen by Global NCAP were entry-level versions. These did not have airbags and were clearly at a disadvantage. Two tests were carried out: the United Nations' basic safety test (40 per cent offset at 56 kmph) and the Global NCAP test (40 per cent offset at 64 kmph). Going by the results, none of these cars would be able to save the driver or passengers from getting fatal injuries when 40 per cent of their car’s front (fenders, bonnet and bumpers) crashed into anything while driving at about 56 kmph and 64 kmph speeds. Of the cars tested, only the Ford Figo passed the UN test despite not having a driver airbag. It was close, as the driver’s head narrowly missed the steering wheel. VW has decided to withdraw the non-airbag-equipped version from the Indian market and upgrade all its cars with airbags.