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

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