Recall of vehicles to fix faults which was a voluntary affair till now will be brought under a tight scrutiny later this year when a government-controlled agency takes charge.
This nodal agency will monitor customer complaints, maintain accident data and recall history, advise on imposition of penalties and specific situations related to safety defects. The government will thus keep a database of all recalls made.
The agency can also launch its own investigation if it is not satisfied with the findings carried out by the manufacturer and ask the government to impose penalties. These new norms will be brought into effect from October 1, 2016.
The powers delegated to such an agency appears to be nearly similar to the one given to the National Authority under the revised Road Transport and Safety Bill (RTSB) which has been stuck in the parliament for several months.
Indian car makers recalled more than 2 million vehicles in the last four years for fix manufacturing defects making it one car recalled for every four sold in the country. The reason behind the recalls ranged from replacement of engine parts to life saving components like airbag inflators and brake parts.
R C Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India said, "We have been doing recalls voluntarily and proactively whenever required. These have been done keeping in mind the larger interests of our customers. We do not need someone from the outside to tell us when we should order a recall".
At present, India does not have a mandatory vehicle recall policy and local automakers follow a voluntary recall code adopted a few years ago as per guidelines issued by their apex lobby body the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. German car maker Volkswagen announced India's biggest recall last year with a total of 323,700 cars recalled. The cars were said to have been fitted with emission cheating device, an allegation VW has denied.
"In case of possibility of significant number of genuine safety defects due to manufacturing, Nodal Agency should share parallelly with the concerned vehicle manufacturers for further investigation. Based on investigation, the concerned manufacturer shall decide the need for recall. In cases where the Nodal Agency is not satisfied with the findings or contents of the investigation report of the investigation carried out by the manufacturer, it may initiate investigation on its own for the investigation of the said defect", stated a gazette issued to amend the Central Motor Vehicle Rules.
Further parts manufacturers will be held for greater liability if the investigation finds that the component was made with non-conformity with the specifications laid down by the manufacturer. Thus the parts makers will have to bear any third party claims that may arise in connection with the safety defects.
No penalty will be levied in a case where the manufacturer voluntarily declares and undertakes a safety recall with due diligence, as per the notification.
While two wheeler manufacturers have begun to announce recalls publicly only recently recalls for commercial vehicles remain uncommon in the country. Niche bike maker Royal Enfield said it would call back unspecified units of its recently launch Himalayan bike but refused to call it a recall even as no public announcement was made for the same.