Cars Set to Get Safer, But Will Cost More
New norms may force car cos to make major architectural changes in current models
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.