India on the radar as Chevrolet Spark flops LatAm crash test

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 16, 2018


General Motors’ compact car being exported from here

First, it was the Renault Kwid and Honda Mobilio’s basic version which received dismal crash test ratings from the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) this week.

Now, Latin NCAP has awarded a zero rating to the Chevrolet Spark GT (Classic) for adult and child occupant protection in its most basic safety equipped version. This car is made in General Motors’ Talegaon plant near Pune and exported to Latin America. To that extent, there is a significant India DNA in the Spark which, therefore, puts the spotlight once more on automobile safety standards in emerging markets.

Alejandro Furas, Latin NCAP Secretary-General, said: “This is another disappointment from General Motors, especially in a model that has the potential to offer high protection levels, as it did when its basic version equipped with six airbags was tested by Euro NCAP in 2009 and scored four stars.”

According to him, it was “unacceptable” that the European version of the Spark GT, which included airbags, is offered at a similar price to the Latin American version, which has no airbags. “It is hard to believe that this kind of discrimination towards the Latin American consumers continues, whilst Global NCAP and the road safety community pledges for the democratisation of car safety,” said Furas.

Safety first

María Fernanda Rodríguez, Latin NCAP President, said GM should show that all consumers, regardless of geography, are valued the same when it comes to safety. Change needs to come faster as we are very concerned about the number of consumers who are today travelling in unsafe cars.”

In an emailed response, a GM India spokesperson said, “GM shares the goal of improving road safety worldwide, including the adoption of robust auto safety standards. In India, GM will offer air bags and ABS in our upcoming Beat Essentia family. We will continue to meet all safety regulations in India.”

It was only last week when Toyota Kirloskar Motor launched its new Etios which has been engineered to meet top safety standards. The model already got four stars from Global NCAP in its last crash test and the new avatar is expected to take safety to the next level for adult and child occupants.

From the Global NCAP’s point of view, it is important to highlight this issue constantly in its crash test reports which have featured a host of India-specific models. In its more recent report in May, it awarded zero stars to the Kwid, Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Eeco, Mahindra Scorpio and Hyundai Eon.

Prior to this, Euro NCAP was critical of the Bajaj Qute’s safety standards as a quadricycle. Likewise, Datsun GO was at the receiving end in November 2014 where Global NCAP sought its removal from Indian roads.

While there is no denying that road safety is a glaring issue in this country which heads global fatalities, some carmakers feel that these tests are not entirely fair in their context. After all, they argue, it is inconceivable to think of high road speeds in a predominantly small car market where costs need to be kept in check. As they put it, it is horses for courses by the end of the day.

Things will change going forward when safety norms become mandatory by the end of this decade. Vehicles will become dearer with added accessories but it is a small price to pay for keeping lives intact.

Published on September 20, 2016

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