Monday, November 24, 2014
By Kriti Gupta
Indian car makers more concerned about their sales, rather than safety measures
India has recorded the maximum road accident deaths worldwide, yet top carmakers are hesitant to introduce essential safety features as they will increase the cost of cars and discourage buyers. The government is considering a proposal to make it mandatory for cars to come equipped with airbags and antilock braking system (ABS), after the UK-based Global New Car Assessment Programme declared some of the country's top-sellers unsafe in frontal crash tests conducted at its labs. These tests were conducted as per western safety norms; the cars meet standards prescribed in India.
But companies argue that the inclusion of these safety features may increase the price of entry vehicles by Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000, and discourage people from migrating from their two-wheelers to cars. "The growth of manufacturing will be impacted in case the government decides to mandate features like airbags and ABS across Indian car models. The cost of the vehicles will go up, and this will impact affordability and sales," said RC Bhargava, chairman of Maruti, who feels that upgrading from a two-wheeler to a car is a big improvement in safety.
Bhargava's views are echoed by other top manufacturers. Rakesh Srivastava, senior VP (sales & marketing) at Hyundai Motor India, said that companies are not averse to providing high-end safety features on cars. "But is it required? Some customers may want to look at affordability. Enhanced safety features would also mean increased costs. Would we be affordable then?" Manufacturers argue that unlike Europe, road deaths in India are not caused while in the car, but outside it. "The average driving speed in India is slower than Europe. So mandating air bags and other features will not be of much help. Rather, we should ensure road discipline and adherence to traffic rules," said a manufacturer.