Cars Set to Get Safer, But Will Cost More

New norms may force car cos to make ma­jor ar­chi­tec­tural changes in cur­rent mod­els

The Economic Times - - Companies -

CHAN­CHAL PAL CHAUHAN

The govern­ment has drawn up a set of safety norms for new cars in the coun­try, in­clud­ing manda­tory off­set frontal crash and side-im­pact tests, in a move that will make ve­hi­cles safer but slightly more ex­pen­sive. Ini­tial parleys be­tween in­volved min­istries and stake­hold­ers such as car­mak­ers and test­ing agencies are un­der­way to fi­nalise and im­ple­ment the pro­gramme chris­tened Bharat New Ve­hi­cle Safety As­sess­ment Pro­gram (BNVSAP), three per­sons fa­mil­iar with the de­vel­op­ment told ET. The de­vel­op­ment comes months af­ter sev­eral pop­u­lar small cars in the coun­try failed in a global crash safety test. More people die in road ac­ci­dents in In­dia than any­where else and the coun­try ac­counts for about 10% of all-road ac­ci­dent deaths in the world. The govern­ment plans to in­tro­duce manda­tory crash tests for new cars in a few years for new mod­els. Cars sold in the coun­try will also have star rat­ings based on their safety per­for­mance, sim­i­lar to the Euro­pean New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gramme (NCAP), a per­son fa­mil­iar with the de­vel­op­ment said. More num­ber of stars would re­flect higher safety quo­tient. The govern­ment is ex­pected to no­tify the crash test norms within a cou­ple of months. It would be im­ple­mented in phases ac­cord­ing to plans be­ing worked out by Na­tional Au­to­mo­tive Test­ing and R&D In­fra­struc­ture Project (NATRiP). “Govern­ment is study­ing the crasht­est norms and as­sess­ment pro­grammes from all ma­jor mar­kets like Ja­pan, Europe and the US to de­velop the most ideal mix for In­dia,” a govern­ment of­fi­cial said. “The de­tailed pro­to­col for safety-star rat­ing in In­dia is likely to be ready by mid-2014,” the per­son added. The new safety pa­ram­e­ters will force car­mak­ers to make ma­jor ar­chi­tec­tural changes in cur­rent mod­els and with­draw older ones, said a per­son work­ing closely with the govern­ment on the new norms. “All the cars cur­rently sold may not meet the norms even af­ter ma­jor changes are car­ried out. Es­pe­cially the older ones may have to be phased out by man­u­fac­tur­ers as the cost to adapt to new norms would be pro­hib­i­tive and un­vi­able,” the per­son added. While most man­u­fac­tur­ers have shied away from shar­ing in­vest­ments re­quired to raise the safety bar, ex­perts said 8-15% of the ex-show­room price of a car could be added to meet the new norms, depend­ing on the life­cy­cle of the car.

Ex­perts are of the opin­ion that au­to­mo­bile com­pa­nies will have to change the body de­sign, strengthen the chas­sis and body cage. Airbags and other safety fea­tures like the an­tilock brake sys­tem with elec­tronic brake dis­tri­bu­tion and seat belt re­minder would give cred­its to the star rat­ing of the car. Ab­dul Ma­jeed, part­ner at Price Water­house and an auto in­dus­try ex­pert, said proper laws on ve­hi­cle crash test will help all the stake­hold­ers. “By har­mon­is­ing In­dia’s ve­hi­cle safety stan­dards with those abroad (the US and EU), govern­ment can en­sure road wor­thi­ness of ve­hi­cles pro­duced in the coun­try. It will

The de­vel­op­ment comes months af­ter sev­eral pop­u­lar small cars in the coun­try failed in a global crash safety test

also help au­tomak­ers to eas­ily ex­port lo­cally pro­duced cars glob­ally, where these stan­dards are the norm and spread the in­volved costs over higher vol­umes,” he said. Ear­lier this year, all five In­dian cars that took part in a crash safety test con­ducted by the UK-based NCAP — Tata Nano, Maruti Alto 800, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volk­swa­gen Polo — scored zero. One of the full-fledged crash test fa­cil­i­ties be­ing built by the govern­ment is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional later this year at Au­to­mo­tive Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia (ARAI) in Pune. A sec­ond one is slated to get op­er­a­tional at In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for Au­to­mo­tive Tech­nol­ogy, or iCAT, at Mane­sar un­der NATRiP. Sources said In­dian norms could have a larger spec­trum ex­ceed­ing the reg­u­lar off­set frontal crash and side-im­pact test, with plans to in­tro­duce strin­gent mea­sures such as pedes­trian pro­tec­tion, whiplash in­juries and child safety res­train re­quire­ment in a phased man­ner. Also, the In­dian tests would have a higher test­ing speed of 65 km/hour com­pared to 56km/hour that NCAP cur­rently uses. The rear-im­pact test, which is not man­dated in Europe, could also be adopted.

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