Indian firms have the skills to build cars with world-class safety, says Global NCAP chief

G Balachandar Chennai | Updated on January 23, 2020

With the highest number of road fatalities in the world, India’s major road safety challenges remain untackled, especially to modernise traffic safety rules, and law enforcement. While those are still an unfinished task, the improving safety standards in vehicles, triggered by global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) results, indicate that the offer of safer cars is not an expensive or impossible process like how it was felt half a decade ago. President and CEO of Global NCAP, David Ward, who was in India recently, discussed the progress on safety standards in India with BusinessLine. Excerpts:

How do you see the progress on the improvement of safety standards in Indian cars?

There has been huge progress over the last five years. When we launched our Safer Cars for India project in early 2014, most best-selling cars were zero-star cars that would fail to pass minimum crash test standards. Today, Indian manufacturers are competing to obtain the coveted five-star rating, and government regulations now require all new cars to pass UN standards for front and side impact. We now have three five-star results — two with Tata for the Nexon and the Altroz, and now also for Mahindra with their XUV300.

Are companies that produce cars in India showing a stronger interest in making their cars safer now?

It is very impressive to see companies like Tata and Mahindra competing to offer five-star cars. Tata has really shown a solid performance.

This represents a new benchmark for safety performance, not just for Indian manufacturers but for foreign companies, too. It also shows that Indian companies have all the skills necessary to design and build cars with world-class levels of safety.

In term of safety, how do Indian cars compare with the ones in other developing nations?

As a result of new government regulations, including for front and side impact and pedestrian protection, all new cars sold in India are comparable with other major automotive markets.

The next most important step is to mandate the anti-slid system — electronic stability control (ESC). This is compulsory in many countries now; worldwide it is fitted in over 80 per cent on new cars. India needs to accelerate fitting of ESC and we will make it a requirement for a five-star rating in our Safer Cars for India project from next year.

The Indian government has pledged to introduce an ESC regulation by 2022 and we hope that many manufacturers will voluntarily make this life-saving system standard well before that date.

How many cars from India have so far participated in your crash tests and how many of them have secured decent ratings?

We have tested 36 models since 2014, and it is very encouraging that at least a dozen cars have either four- or five-star (ratings). Due to the Indian government’s crash test standards, we are expecting to see the elimination of any new zero-star cars.

What are some of regulatory requirements to make Indian cars safer?

The most important tests are for occupant protection in front and side impact.

These are based on UN regulations. In India, the front impact involves the car hitting a barrier at 56 km/h. NCAP, including Safer Cars for India, runs the same test but at a higher speed of 64 km/h.

This makes it easier to compare manufacturer performance, and better represents crashes that result in fatal injuries.

We would expect India’s forthcoming Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme) to consider tougher norms similar to ours.

Published on January 23, 2020

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