The entry-level variants of Made in India models from Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motor and Datsun score poorly in the latest round of crash testing conducted by Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme), a UK-based not-for-profit entity.
It says there is ample scope for improving safety in these models. India has one of the largest number of road collisions in the world. The official count of accidents on the roads in 2018 was 461,000. That's an hourly average of about 53 or nearly one every second.
While the WagonR and Ertiga received two stars and three stars out of five, respectively, the Santro and redi-GO got two and one star, respectively. The sixth round of the test, conducted as part of the 'Safer cars for India campaign' launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the FIA Foundation-backed GNCAP, chose the entry-level version of each model. As a result, only the Ertiga was fitted with at least two airbags as standard; the other models offered only a driver airbag.
The results highlight significant differences in adult occupant protection, in cars that fomally meet the latest Indian government vehicle technical regulations. "Disappointingly, there are no five star performers," said David Ward, chief excutive of Global NCAP.
Adding: “The Suzuki Maruti Ertiga achieves a creditable three stars for both adult and child occupant protection but it’s obvious to us that more can and should be done to improve overall protection levels for cars sold in the market.”
Both the WagonR and Santro offer only a driver frontal airbag as standard. The test results rate their structure as unstable. Though head and neck protection was good, both showed poor results on child occupant protection. The redi-Go achieved only one star for adult occupant protection and two stars for child protection. The model's structure was rated unstable.
Spokespersons at Maruti Suzuki India and Hyundai Motor India declined to comment. This is not the first time that top selling models from the two companies have got low safety ratings from GNCAP. Over the years, since launch of the campaign, officials from the two companies have maintained that their cars meet Indian laws, which are more attuned to the driving environment in India.
Kaushik Madhavan, vice-president for mobility practice at Frost & Sullivan, says: “Technically, the manufacturers in India are meeting safety regulations mandated by the government. Therefore, they aren’t obligated to offer more than what is required, as there is a cost to it.”
Automobile makers, he said, need to do more in terms of creating awareness. And, regulatory push to improve safety standards has to come from policy makers.
A Datsun India spokesperson said, “Safety is the key priority for Datsun. The Datsun redi-GO meets all safety standards and regulations in India, and we will continue to invest in the brand towards offering high value and competitiveness.”
The spokesperson claimed the results were conducted on an old model. In June this year, the company says it launched an upgraded one, equipped with safety features such as vehicle dynamic control, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and traction control system.