Even as Indian car manufacturers are gearing up for upgrading their car safety standards in line with the government-mandated safety norms that will come into effect from October 2017, the UK-based NGO Global NCAP (Global New Car Assessment Program) is set to release the results of its third round of crash tests in India.
While the results of the safety tests on seven Indian cars are to be announced at a two-day conference, on May 16 and May 17, organised by Global NCAP in partnership with the Ministry of Road Transport and the Highways and Institute of Road Traffic Education, carmakers have flagged their concerns over the timing of the test, given that they are already in the process of preparing for the new norms that kick in late next year.
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Carmakers in India claim that while Global NCAP’s frontal impact crash test for the star rating in developed markets such as the US are done at a speed of 56 kmph, those in India are being carried out at a much higher 64 kmph even as the average vehicle speeds in India are much lower. While, regulations in Europe also mandate testing at 56 kmph, the GNCAP testing for the star rating is done at 64 kmph. A representative of a domestic carmaker said that the average speeds in India are not comparable to those in Europe and claimed that a test for star rating at higher speeds in India only seems to be a way of forcing stringent standards to sell more safety equipments.
They claim that the frontal crash test at 56 kmph is equivalent to an impact between two moving cars at 112 kmph while the test at 64 kmph is equivalent to an impact at 128 kmph on the highway, which is much higher than normal driving speeds in India.
The carmakers are also raising questionmarks over the timing of the test. “In comparison to 2014, when GNCAP came out with the crash test results for Indian cars for the first time, now there is a clear visibility on safety standards starting 2017 and they are at par with those in Europe and US. Companies have already started incorporating those features and whatever is left will be done over the next few months. Since the context has changed this time and both the government and industry have taken steps, I don’t see a reason in coming out with test results now,” said a senior official with a leading car manufacturer.
Alongwith Bloomberg Philanthropies, GNCAP is also funded by the FIA Foundation (the governing body for Formula 1 racing), International Consumer Testing and Research, and the Road Safety Fund. GNCAP also leads the global partnership ‘Stop the Crash’ alongwith several leading safety component manufacturers and promotes awareness about life saving crash avoidance technologies.
An email sent on Friday to Global NCAP seeking reasons for the tests being carried out at higher speeds than those set by regulation and for doing the crash test in the interim even as vehicle manufacturers in India are moving towards mandated crash test norms in October 2017, did not elicit any response.
While India did not have the occupant protection regulations earlier, the UK-based organisation carried out two rounds of cars test India since January 2014 comprising the Hyundai i10, the Tata Nano, Maruti Suzuki Alto 800, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Figo, Maruti Suzuki Swift and the Datsun Go. The base variants of all these cars were picked for these tests. GNCAP’s test reports in November 2014 created tremendous stir and the carmakers came under fire for the low occupant safety level in the cars.
Five hatchbacks — the Maruti Suzuki Alto 800, the Hyundai i10, the Ford Figo, the VW Polo and the Tata Nano — scored zero stars in tests in January 2014. Later that year, Nissan’s Datsun Go and the Maruti Swift were tested, with both cars faring badly.
Immediately after the January 2014 test, Volkswagen took corrective measures and introduced two airbags in the Polo, while other companies are also in the process of introducing them in their lower-end models. The government has subsequently come out with the new occupant protection regulations under Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme (BNVSAP), which will be effective by October 2017.