Maruti Suzuki's Swift and Nissan's Datsun GO failed to pass the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) by a UK-based independent charity, focused on consumer-oriented vehicle safety initiatives.
According to the Global NCAP, an umbrella body of consumer car safety testing bodies, crash tests of the Datsun GO and Swift demonstrated a high risk of life-threatening injuries.
Max Mosley, chairman, Global NCAP, said, "India has the potential to be a world leader in the automobile industry but Indian consumers are not aware of how unsafe they would be in case of a crash."
He added India is launching an NCAP consumer testing programme, which would be a step forward for safety but regulations based on the UN's minimum crash test standards are also needed. "If this happens, every new car sold in India would have a proper crash structure and airbags," Mosley said.
Both cars received "zero star" safety rating for their adult occupant protection. However, the Swift scored "one star" for child occupant protection. The tests were conducted at a speed of 64 km per hour.
"The Swift's structure showed signs of collapsing in the crash and was rated as unstable. The car's lack of standard-fit airbags meant that the driver's head makes direct contact with the steering wheel - the dummy readings indicate a high probability of life threatening injuries," said Global NCAP, in a statement.
The Datsun GO scored "two stars" for child occupant protection. The statement added, "The Datsun GO's vehicle structure collapsed in the crash and was rated as unstable. The car's lack of airbags meant that the driver's head makes direct contact with the steering wheel and dashboard - the dummy readings indicate a high probability of life-threatening injuries. The failure of the body shell makes it redundant to fit an airbag." However, unlike the Datsun GO, in Swift fitting with airbags would improve occupant protection, the statement said.
"Safety is important and is a key issue in India. Automotive regulation standards in fast growing countries are constantly evolving and as a global manufacturer, we are willing to adopt as well as help evolve standards in vehicular safety standards," Sicard added.
A query to Maruti Suzuki, seeking comments the crash tests results, remained unanswered.
Earlier this year, best-selling small cars in India, including the Maruti Alto 800, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo, had failed Global NCAP tests. The tests done on cars -- bought from Indian showrooms and later shipped to the testing facility -- highlighted shortcomings in the structural integrity of the vehicles tested. Only entry-level variants were chosen for the tests. These vehicles usually do not have airbags, a basic prerequisite globally to pass a safety test.
Combined sales of these five cars accounted for around 20 per cent of all new cars sold in India last year. The crash tests were carried out at 64 kmph.
NCAP had also assessed the same models against the UN's basic crash test and all the cars except the Volkswagen Polo passed that minimum standard. This 40 per cent offset frontal impact test at 56 kmph is now widely applied by major manufacturing countries and regions, including Australia, China, the European Union, Japan and Malaysia.
The Global Plan for the UN's Decade of Action for Road Safety recommends that all member-states apply this standard, although it is not yet applied in India. Despite India recording the highest road fatalities in the world, the share of life-saving features such as airbags in cars and SUVs is among the lowest in the world. Customers in India usually compromise on safety to benefit from lower price tags.