Popular Indian cars like the Renault Kwid, Mahindra Scorpio, Maruti Suzuki Celerio and the Eeco, and the Hyundai Eon were very recently in the news for all bad reasons. These best selling cars of their respective segments failed to secure even a single star in the Global New Car Assessment Program (Global NCAP) safety tests. NCAP results always make headlines – be it the new Honda Jazz receiving full 5 stars or the ones above, failing miserably by global industry standards. Here’s a closer look at why NCAP is an important parameter to base your decision of buying a particular car on.
What is it?
Technically speaking, Global NCAP is a UK registered charity based company with the objective of promotion of public safety and public health, focused on consumer oriented vehicle safety. It conducts tests and designs parameters to assess the safety quotient of a car, introduced or to be introduced in the market. Most popular amongst these are of course the crash tests, which test the structural stability of a car while at the same time assessing the kind of impact an average person would have in case of a collision. Comprehensive crashes emulating real life situations are a USP of this program. Cars from around the world are tested at the ADAC facility in Germany
Cars selected for the test are the most basic versions of the ones available in the market. These are subjected to 40 per cent frontal collision with an offset towards the driver at speeds ranging from 56 (UN) to 64 (NCAP) kph. Based on the test a comprehensive result is prepared, with comments on the structural stability of the car, adult occupant protection and the areas more prone during a head-on collision. There’s also the star rating, which gives you a gist of how safe the car is.
How Relevant is the Test?
India is amongst the top 5 car markets in the world and our roads ingloriously contribute to more than 1,00,000 accidental casualties every year. Most cars are stripped down basic safety features like airbags for want of affordable and accessible mobility, just as more and more structurally weak and equipment denuded cars throng the roads. The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) needs to update its outlook towards frontal crash tests, as the cars that have cleared the Indian test in the past are known to have failed miserably in the UK.
Many a times, the same cars sold domestically and outside, differ in many aspects and hence, a star rating for a particular car shouldn’t be perceived as being universal.
State of Indian Cars
Global NCAP first turned towards India in 2013, because even with the size of car market we had, we were the only ones to not have an effective car safety program – regulatory or otherwise. It selected a bunch of most selling cars in the country including the Maruti Suzuki Alto 800, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and the Volkswagen Polo. As disgraceful as it was, all cars failed miserable, failing to bag even a single star. Only the (previous gen) Figo and the Polo were found to be structurally stable and a second round of testing with airbag fitted Polo gained a credible 4 star rating. Which brings us to the present day when in its new report dubbed as “Safer Cars for India”, the Global NCAP gave the lowest possible scores to the above mentioned Renault Kwid, Mahindra Scorpio, Maruti Suzuki Celerio and the Eeco, and the Hyundai Eon. It further added, “We strongly believe that no manufacturer anywhere in the world should be developing new models that are so clearly substandard. Car makers must ensure that their new models pass the UN’s minimum crash test regulations, and support the use of airbags.”
Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP)
The Global NCAP is restrained by the funds it has, and being a UK based company it becomes just impossible to test out each and every car of the world. A given set of rules may never apply to two countries and hence there’s a pressing need towards setting up of local bodies foraying into automotive safety assessment. And well, there’s some positive noise in that direction too. If sources are to be believed the Indian Government is finally going to enforce stringent crash test norms for car in the country with effect from October 2017, with a deadline for updating existing models by October 2018.
The Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP) would be set up on lines of the Global NCAP and would adopt the best practice of countries like Japan, Europe and the US. Frontal crash tests at 56 kph and side crash tests would be done at 50 kph.
With such regulations in place, one can expect the prices of vehicles to increase from their current rates but at the same time things like airbags, ABS and seat belt pre-tensioners would move out of the ‘add-on’ list to get incorporated in the basic feature list. Though these changes won’t be mandatory, what would essentially be there would be structural changes and compatibility for the cars that already aren’t, to meet the safety requirements.
The Global NCAP reports may paint a picture of unsafe cars driving around Indian roads but this is not the whole story. Consumers have been becoming more sensitive towards personal and family safety, especially in cars. They are actively demanding features such as airbags and ABS while buying cars and are not averse to spending more to have these features present in their cars. On the manufacturers’ part, they have been introducing cars with these safety features as standard.