India will soon set up a domestic testing authority called Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme), which will provide star ratings to vehicles based on their performance in crash tests

The Government, on Friday, approved the draft notification to introduce Bharat NCAP, a crash test programme, wherein automobile manufacturers can send their vehicles to get crash-test ratings.

“I have now approved the Draft GSR Notification to introduce Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program), wherein automobiles in India shall be accorded Star Ratings based upon their performance in Crash Tests,” Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) said.

Bharat-NCAP will serve as a consumer-centric platform allowing customers to opt for safer cars based upon their star-ratings, while promoting healthy competition among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in India to manufacture safer vehicles, he said.

So far manufacturers conducted crash tests on a voluntary basis at their research labs or would send the cars to independent agencies (third party) like Global NCAP in the UK to get the star ratings. While the Indian Government’s front offset test is conducted at 56kph, the same as European standards, Global NCAP does it at 64kph.

Crash ratings have become a selling point for manufacturers and companies such as Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) and Tata Motors have sent their vehicles to Global NCAP for the crash tests; some of their newly launched products, including the Tata Nexon, Punch and M&M’s XUV300 and XUV700, have got five-star ratings.

However, the country’s largest passenger car maker, Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL), has been following Indian standards and its cars including the Alto, SPresso, WagonR and Swift have got poor ratings at Global NCAP crash tests.

In February, MSIL’s then Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Kenichi Ayukawa had said, “Global NCAP is an organisation and not a regulator. The Indian regulations and the European regulations are exactly the same in frontal offset norm, side impact norm and pedestrian impact norm. India is at par with Europe in crash test norms and we are already there (meeting the norms).”

Although companies will come out with structured responses to the draft rules later, Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Director (Marketing and Sales) MSIL told BusinessLine that “Safety hasalways been a top priority for Maruti Suzuki and it will remain so.”

MSIL has its own crash testing lab at the company’s R&D centre in Rohtak, Haryana.

Meanwhile, Gadkari further said the Star Rating of Indian cars based on Crash Tests is ‘extremely crucial’ not only to ensure structural and passenger safety in cars, but also to increase the export-worthiness of Indian automobiles.

The testing protocol of Bharat NCAP will be aligned with Global Crash Test Protocols, factoring in existing Indian regulations, allowing OEMs to get their vehicles tested at India’s own in-house testing facilities, Gadkari said.

“Bharat NCAP will prove to be a critical instrument in making our automobile industry Aatmanirbhar with the mission of making India the Number 1 automobile hub in the world,” he added.

According to analysts, Bharat NCAP is clearly a step-forward for India to get on a par with global automobile standards. Indian agencies such as the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and the International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) do not provide star ratings or certifications on crash tests.

“The Government has been aspirational in terms of elevating the standards for cars over the last few years. India is the fifth biggest car market in the world and the Government’s pro-activeness in bringing regulations will force our suppliers and OEMs to make the best with high standards in the country,” Puneet Gupta, Director at IHS Markit told BL.

Safety is of utmost importance and Bharat NCAP norms will help customers compare and choose the right product due to high transparency and standards, he added.

“The Bharat-NCAP programme should help car buyers evaluate safety standards/ features provided by vehicle manufactures. The fact that these testing protocols will be aligned with global crash test standards will also benefit automotive exports,” Vinay Raghunath, Partner and Automotive Sector Leader, EY India told BusinessLine.