YET ANOTHER ROUND OF GLOBAL NCAP crash tests on Indian cars and yet another set of appalling results. What’s disturbing is not just decade-old cars flunking the tests but brand new, supposedly global cars, scoring zeroes.
Now I have two points to make. It costs money to make cars safer and manufacturers aren’t in this business for charity. Put yourself in their shoes. You’re designing a car to compete with the Alto in a segment where price is everything. Adding in the required safety structures throws the pricing out of whack and that’s that for what was to be your potential bestseller. Would you do it?
I’m not saying money shouldn’t be spent on making cars safer. Far from it. What I’m saying is that unless there’s a uniformly high regulatory requirement that every manufacturer has to comply with, this isn’t going to happen. And that’s because you, dear buyer, still do not place a premium on safety. It’s a fact that you’d rather spend forty grand on seat covers and a fancy stereo than tick the airbags and ABS options. And manufacturers, just to stay in business, will have to cut corners and dole out the standard “our cars meet and exceed all current safety requirements prescribed by the government”.
This, of course, equates to zero stars in the GNCAP tests. David Ward, general secretary of GNCAP is right when he says, “Without crash test standards, which India unfortunately does not have right now, automobile manufacturers do not have any incentive to introduce such safety features.” But if the government mandates that cars have to score a minimum of three stars in a crash test, every manufacturer will have to upgrade their cars, prices will uniformly go up, and a safer Kwid will still be competitive against a safer Celerio and Eon.
That will happen. But that brings me to my second point. Why wait till October 2017 to introduce Bharat NCAP standards (which, and you can bet your last rupee on it, will be watered down from GNCAP standards). Why wait till we have our own crash test lab, which is again taking forever? Do you really think manufacturers and our testing authorities cannot afford to ship cars over to Europe to have them tested?
And, sorry, I don’t buy the argument that 64kmph is too high a speed to test Indian cars. If your data shows that Indians don’t drive fast and so crash tests should be done at a lower speed, then restrict the top speed of your cars to 80kmph. And then see who buys them. We have highways and expressways that allow the same average speeds as Europe, so why the double standards? And while on the subject of safety, why only #SaferCarsForIndia? That bikers don’t wear helmets, to me, is the most glaring sign that we are still a third world country. When will we get round to making helmets compulsory and enforcing the damn law? Isn’t that the cheapest, easiest, fastest and most effective way to reduce road deaths right now? Aren’t we #MissingTheWoodForTheTrees?L