Five of the most popular small cars in India have scored a zero in a crash-safety test conducted by a UK-based body that tests car safety worldwide.
The Tata Nano, the Maruti Alto 800, the Hyundai i10, the Ford Figo and the Volkswagen Polo, which flunked the test conducted by Global NCAP, account for nearly 20% of car sales in the country.
The car companies, however, retorted saying that they comply with all Indian safety standards.
The five cars were tested for frontal impact at 64kmph and received zero-star adult protection ratings with a high risk of life-threatening injuries in road crashes. None of them come with critical safety features like airbags or anti-braking system as standard equipment in India.
In particular, the Nano, the Alto and the i10 were so poor structurally that even airbags wouldn’t make the cars very safe. As a consequence, Volkswagen has decided to withdraw the existing version of the Polo with one that has dual front airbags as a standard feature, which has passed the NCAP test with a four-star rating.
India leads the world in the most number of road accident fatalities.
“India is now a major global market and production centre for small cars, so it’s worrying to see levels of safety that are 20 years behind the five-star standards common in Europe and North America,” said Max Mosley, chairman of Global NCAP. “Poor structural integrity and the absence of airbags are putting the lives of Indian consumers at risk. They have a right to expect the same basic levels of safety as customers in other part of the world.”
The companies took shelter behind the national safety norms, saying their cars were and would continue to comply with the norms in place.
“All our vehicles, including the Tata Nano meets all Indian safety regulations, including the frontal barrier crash test at 48 kmph, as mandated by the government,” said Tim Leverton, chief of the advanced and product engineering department at Tata Motors.
While Maruti refused to comment, a Hyundai spokesperson said, “Hyundai Motor India affirms that our vehicles are designed and build to meet all the prescribed safety standards set by Indian regulatory authorities.”