The Global NCAP performed its first-ever independent crash tests of some of India's popular small cars. The cars were selected by Global NCAP for testing in a frontal impact at 64km/h received zero-star adult protection ratings.
In the course of this study, the Global NCAP team concluded that the Indian cars selected did not pass any of safety norms set by them. In fact the cars have shown a high-risk of life threatening injuries in road crashes.
The models tested included India's best-selling car, the Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, the Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo. Combined sales of these five cars account for around 20% of all the new cars sold in India last year.
Global NCAP chose the entry-level version of each model and as a result none were fitted with air bags as standard. Max Mosley, Chairman of Global NCAP, said, "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 now common in Europe and North America."
He went on to say that the poor structural integrity and the absence of airbags are putting the lives of Indian consumers at risk. In the Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, the Tata Nano and the Hyundai i10, the vehicle structures proved inadequate and collapsed to varying degrees, resulting in high risks of life-threatening injuries to the occupants. The extent of the structural weaknesses in these models were such that fitting airbags would not be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury. The Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo had structures that remained stable - and, therefore, with airbags fitted, protection for the driver and front passenger would be much improved.
Coinciding with the Global NCAP tests, Volkswagen has decided to withdraw the non-airbag version of the Polo from sale in India. Because of this, Global NCAP agreed to a request from VW to assess a version of the Polo that has two airbags fitted as standard as from now.
It is a startling revelation not only for consumers but the entire automotive fraternity. Infact, automotive journalists, like us, have been voicing our concerns about safety for a long time now and the fact remains that in India, cheap cars sell! After this safety assessment atleast, let us hope that things change for the best.