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How crash-worthy is your India-made car?

January 09, 2019 08:59 IST

The Tata Nexon and Mahindra Marazzo ace the safety ratings, but what about other Made in India cars? How safe is the car you drive?

Mahindra Marazzo

IMAGE: The Mahindra Marazzo Photograph: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

A five-star safety rating for Tata Nexon by Global NCAP -- a first for any Made In India car -- and a four-star rating for Mahindra Marazzo, are enough reasons to cheer for carmakers in India.

For an industry where getting a zero for safety rating was not uncommon till four years ago, the latest safety ratings for Tata and Mahindra models is impressive, but there is a long way to go, says David Ward, secretary-general, Global NCAP, emphasising on the need for India to have its own holistic safety assessment programme.

Global NCAP is the UK-based firm conducting independent research and testing programmes to assesses the safety and environmental characteristics of passenger vehicles and disseminate the results to the public.

"Our Safer Cars for India project has already succeeded in changing consumer attitudes. We hope it will gradually be replaced or merge into a permanent Bharat NCAP," Ward told Business Standard.

 

A permanent programme in India would increase the number of cars that can be tested and give consumers much more information about the safety of vehicles sold in India, he added.

Tata Nexon

IMAGE: The Tata Nexon Photograph: Courtesy, Tata Motors

Global NCAP launched the campaign in 2014, with the objective of promoting safer vehicles in the country and establish Bharat NCAP.

The campaign has created awareness among car buyers with regards to occupant safety. It has also prompted carmakers to make airbags standard and improve crashworthiness ahead of the new regulations.

This has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of cars rated four stars, says Ward.

The Indian government, on its part, has responded by introducing new crash test standards for front and side impact (for new models from October 2017 and all cars in production from October 2019), and for pedestrian protection (for new models from October 2018 and all cars in production from October 2020).

However, it is yet to come up with a holistic Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme (BNVSAP), first mooted in 2014.

Even as safety experts give credit to the NCAP for bringing awareness on occupant safety through its independent evaluation in India, some carmakers in India are still discontented.

"I believe the safety rating should be under the aegis of Government of India. BNVSAP is something that we have been working on with the Government of India," said a car executive. 

On reasons for BNVSAP as a policy not being implemented yet, he pointed that most of the features under it -- be it on anti-lock braking system, seat-belt reminder or crash test have already been implemented as regulation and more, as mandated by the government -- are coming in 2019.

Therefore, there is no point in having it. Also, the government doesn't have an agency to oversee it. "In a market where 28 per cent front-seat passengers and 5 per cent rear-seat passengers wear a seat belt, more airbags will not help," said the executive cited earlier. 

Alluding to Nexon's five-star rating as a 'historic achievement', Ward said while this is laudable, Global NCAP also wants to encourage higher levels of crash avoidance technology available in new India cars through anti-skid technology and electronic stability control. 

Derived from readings of the crash-test dummies, each car under the NCAP gets a rating on a five-star scale -- the higher the star rating, the safer the car. The rating is based on the adult occupant protection and child occupant protection scores resulting from the crash test. 

Global NCAP mandates a driver's side airbag as the minimum requirement to qualify for a one-star rating, one of the reasons, why non-airbag versions of the Tata Zest and Volkswagen Polo received zero stars in 2014. Subsequently, airbag-equipped versions tested later were rated four-star cars in 2016.

Shally Seth Mohile in Mumbai
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