Why Some of India’s Best-Selling Cars Fail Basic Safety Tests – Wall Street Journal (blog)

Some of the best-selling cars in India–including Renault S.A.’s Kwid, Hyundai Motor Co.’s Eon and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.’s Celerio–failed the latest crash tests conducted by a global safety watchdog, suggesting consumers and car makers in the South Asian nation may need to spend more on vehicle safety.


London-based Global New Car Assessment Programme, or Global NCAP, said on Tuesday that crash tests on five models—which also included Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.’s Scorpio sports utility vehicle, and Maruti’s Eeco minivan– revealed only “low levels” of protection for adult occupants in a full frontal collisions at 64 kilometers, or 40 miles, an hour.

The tests showed that either poor structure or lack of air bags in the cars exposed occupants to life-threatening injuries, Global NCAP said.The results echoes similar findings in earlier tests by the watchdog on a different group of Indian cars.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG are the only two companies in India which offer dual airbags on all models. Most car makers tend to offer a driver or dual front airbags only on their pricier versions.


David Ward, secretary general of Global NCAP told The Wall Street Journal that the results “reflect a legacy problem in India which is a lack of regulation and also consumer’s lack of awareness.”

“Global NCAP strongly believes that no manufacturer anywhere in the world should be developing new models that are so clearly sub-standard,” he said. “Car makers must ensure that their new models pass the UN’s minimum crash test regulations, and support use of an airbag.”

India is among a handful of emerging automobile markets including Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia which don’t have sufficient safety regulations in place, said Mr. Ward.

Responding to the findings, Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest car maker by sales, said all its products “are safe” and “meet the safety standards in India and in most cases, exceed them.”


Hyundai—the second-ranked car maker —and Mahindra & Mahindra–India’s largest SUV maker—also said their vehicles meet the current safety standards in India.

Renault had a similar statement saying,  “safety is of paramount importance” for the company and “and all our products meet and exceed the requisite safety standards set by Indian regulatory authorities.”

Small cars, which tend to do badly in some safety tests, made up about 63% of the nearly 2.8 million passenger vehicles sold in India in the year ended March. The segment is competitive, which car companies say forces them to abandon some expensive safety features to keep the sticker price as low as possible.

Mr. Ward said the Indian government’s decision to enforce front and side impact crash tests for new cars from late next year is a “welcome move.” Existing cars will have to adhere to the test norms from October 2019.


India has some of the deadliest roads in the world, accounting for 141,526 deaths in 2014, up from 137,423 a year earlier. The country is also becoming a global auto manufacturing hub, increasing the necessity to build cars that meet crash-test norms globally.

Contesting manufacturers claim that buyers of inexpensive small cars don’t care much about safety, Mr. Ward said “people are willing to pay for safety features” and urged the companies to build safer cars immediately instead of waiting for laws to force them.

“We are not talking huge amounts of money (to build safer cars),” he said. “It takes only $50 for a car manufacturer to buy an airbag”.

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