All seven Indian car models fail Global NCAP's tests

In a telling statement on safety standards adopted by Indian car manufacturers Global NCAP, a UK based entity that aims to support the development of new consumer crash test programmes in emerging markets, has found that all seven models tested by it have failed.

It was the third round of tests conducted by the global body and models such as Renault Kwid (three models), Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Maruti Suzuki Eeco, Mahindra Scorpio and Hyundai Eon were tested. All cars have received zero stars for safety in the tests.

Says an industry expert: “The simple truth here is that to pass these tests vehicles must carry some basic safety equipment - dual airbags is a mandated requirement. The fact that none of these cars have airbags as standard, means that like in the previous tests, they failed even before they could be crashed. Of course the structural integrity of the car's body shell is also tested, and here too many performed poorly.”

India is the world's sixth largest automobile market, and is projected to overtake South Korea and Germany and jump to the fourth spot by 2020. It is also a global manufacturing hub for several automakers.

This is why Global NCAP has taken up the matter of safety regulation and appealed to the Indian government to take steps to institute a New Car Assessment Programme or NCAP, for India.

Global NCAP's first India crash test was conducted almost 3 years ago with 5 models - Tata Nano, Maruti Suzuki Alto800, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and VW Polo. The next round in 2014 used two models - Datsun GO and Maruti Suzuki Swift.

Other markets like the US, EU, Latin America, Australia, China and even South East Asian countries have their own NCAP. India is the only major automobile market that does not. The Indian government has announced that the crash test regulation for the existing cars will come into effect in 2019 and for new cars in 2017.

The latest tests, conducted by Global NCAP, showed that in an accident, all the cars would leave the driver with possible life-threatening injuries to the occupants. All the cars scored two stars each for child safety, barring the Maruti Suzuki Celerio, which was able to score only one star.

David Ward, the secretary general of Global NCAP, said, "The latest 'Safer Cars For India' test results show how important it is for cars to have a body shell that can remain stable in a crash. This is an absolutely crucial pre-requisite for occupant safety together with fitment of at least front air bags.”

According to him, it is surprising that a manufacturer like Renault introduced the Kwid initially lacking this essential feature. “Global NCAP strongly believes that no manufacturer anywhere in the world should be developing new models that are so clearly sub-standard. Car makers must ensure that their new models pass the UN's minimum crash test regulations, and support use of an airbag."

Renault for its part has already said it will rework the Kwid to make it safer. It shares space with cars like the Maruti Suzuki Alto and now the Hyundai Eon that have also fared miserably in similar tests though. Reacting to the tests, Renault India has said that it will comply with the safety timelines mandated by the Indian government.

Meanwhile, Maruti Suzuki, which saw two of its models (Celerio hatchback and Eeco van) fail the test, said that its products are safe when looked from the perspective of the present day norms.

"All our products are safe. They meet the safety standards of the country and in most cases, exceed them. The tests by Global NCAP are conducted at speeds that are higher than those prescribed by the regulatory authorities not only in India but in Europe and USA. The results of Global NCAP have to be seen in that perspective," a company spokesperson said.

In a similar statement Hyundai, which saw the failure of its Eon mini car, said that existing norms are being met. "Hyundai vehicles are designed and built to meet all the prescribed safety standards set by Indian regulatory authorities.” 

It must be pointed out that the Mahindra Scorpio is the only exception in the pack - as it offers dual airbags as at least optional on every variant - including the base model. This is now true of the entire range of Mahindra vehicles, and was a decision Mahindra moved towards after the first round of crash tests 3 years ago.