Five Indian passenger cars flunked a global crash safety test on Tuesday, underpinning concerns about the absence of national standards in the world’s fastest-growing automobile market.
The Maruti Suzuki Celerio and Eeco, the Renault Kwid and the Hyundai Eon scored a zero star in tests conducted to determine how safe a car was for the passengers inside.
The Mahindra Scorpio – a popular SUV known for its all-weather terrain capabilities and once proposed to be the prime minister’s vehicle – was also rated zero star.
“The latest Indian crash test results in Delhi continue to disappoint with all five models rated as zero star,” said a statement from the Global New Car Assessment Programme (Global NCAP).
Mahindra said the tests were conducted on the non-airbags variant of the Scorpio however “approximately 75% of Scorpio customers choose the air bags variants of the vehicle”.
“Typically, in any star rating process, non-airbag variants do not perform well on safety standards,” Mahindra said in a statement, highlighting the fact that most variants of the Scorpio are equipped with airbags and a safety package.
The results were almost identical to the first international safety analysis of Indian vehicles two years ago, when the Maruti Alto 800, Maruti Swift, Tata Nano, Hyundai i10, Ford Figo, and Datsun Go had failed. Only Volkswagen Polo and Toyota Etios had scored a four-star rating.
The Global NCAP is a United Kingdom-based car-testing agency that crashes vehicles against pillars and walls to study the impact on passengers on board.
Three versions of the Kwid were examined – including one with airbags – a facility none of the other makers offered.
Watch | Renault Kwid (I) crash test by Global NCAP
In the test, a head-on collision was simulated by driving the cars into a block at 64kph. The results showed adult drivers will either not survive the crash or sustain life-threatening injuries. All cars scored two stars for child safety except for the Celerio that scored a lone star.
More alarmingly, the bodies of the cars were shattered by the crash with every vehicle reporting an “unstable bodyshell integrity” – that measures how safe the structure is after a collision.
“The latest results show how important it is for cars to have a body shell that can remain stable in a crash. This is an absolutely crucial pre-requisite for occupant safety together with fitment at least of front airbags,” said David Ward, secretary general of Global NCAP.
But automakers disputed the results, indicating the cars were intentionally failed to promote high-end safety equipment.
Maruti Suzuki said India’s crash safety norms for frontal offset and side impact have been developed at par with international guidelines and norms. The top automaker also noted how testing vehicles at 64kph against a wall in lab conditions was equivalent to about 120kph speed on the road.
India is the world’s fifth-largest car market and is poised to become the third behind China and the United States in two years but in the absence of national benchmarks, enforcing standard safety equipment is often piecemeal.
Experts often accuse carmakers of flouting stringent safety norms that are diligently adhered to in the West. India has announced a new set of standards – called Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP) – will be announced next year for new cars and in 2019 for existing vehicles.
Korean carmaker and India’s no. 2 in sales, Hyundai said in statement: “Hyundai Motor India affirms that Hyundai vehicles are designed and build to meet all the prescribed safety standards set by Indian Regulatory Authorities.”
After lobbying for many years, most carmakers now offer airbags in their base models but features such as anti-lock braking system and electronic brake-force distribution are provided only in higher trims.
Industry experts expressed surprise at Kwid, manufactured by the renowned French carmaker Renault too failed the test, despite providing the airbag-fitted version.
“It is very surprising that a manufacturer like Renault introduced the Kwid initially lacking this essential feature. Global NCAP strongly believes that no manufacturer anywhere in the world should be developing new models that are so clearly sub-standard,” the NCAP statement said.
The results came amid news that the Kwid’s production was being halted at the Chennai plant due to engine issues.
“Safety is of paramount importance for Renault and all our products meet and exceed the requisite safety standards set by Indian regulatory authorities,” Renault India said in a statement.
Some Indian automakers have also questioned the attitude of Global NCAP towards Indian carmakers. “If GNCAP is genuinely concerned about road safety why don’t they help India in conducting research of fatalities and study other factors impacting road safety such as licensing, driving quality, road engineering and traffic management?” said Maruti Suzuki.