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Most of us may know that India has the highest reported road accidents in the world (140,000 road traffic fatalities annually). But not many Indians know that the 6th largest car market in the world does not have a comprehensive crash test programme. The current car safety standards set by the governing bodies is also very weak.
You'll be shocked to know that "unlike most other major car producing nations, India does not yet require its vehicles to meet the United Nation's minimum crash test standards", says Global NCAP, a UK based independent agency that accesses and rates safety of global cars.
Recently, Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) acquired a few Indian built cars and put them to test. And not surprisingly, all cars failed to pass the test, some with very dramatic results.
You can see the crash test videos in the gallery below.
Global NCAP, in association with India's Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) acquired two units each of the Tata Nano, Maruti Alto, Hyundai i10, Ford Figo and VW Polo and subjected them to The United Nations Regulation 94 - a test carried out at 56 kmph and the Latin NCAP 2013 - a crash test conducted at 64 kmph.
We should tell you that only the base variants of these cars were picked up which meant none of them came with airbags as standard. This meant all five cars failed the NCAP even before they were crashed. Airbags are considered the most basic safety requirement for a car globally, something that's unfortunately not the case in India.
While all five cars failed the test, the Nano, the Alto and the i10 fared the worst, where the cabin of the cars were decimated, fatally injuring the occupants. The Figo & Polo performed ever so slightly better as the structural rigidity of these cars were maintained. The occupants in the Polo might even have survived such a crash, but would have been critically injured.
Coincidence or a deliberate measure, VW announced only a couple of days back that dual frontal airbags would be offered as standard in the Polo, the company's entry level car in India. (Update: VW Polo With dual front air bags gets four star rating)
Global NCAP has already shared the results with Indian authorities including the SIAM and the manufacturers. Global NCAP and the Institute of Road Traffic Education will also hold a conference today in Delhi to discuss the matter.
Global NCAP President Max Mosley said: "Indian car buyers are entitled to know about the different safety performance of the cars on sale in their market. Alongside other measures, such as better enforcement, driver behavior and road design, action is needed to improve passenger car safety in India which will over time help to reduce road injury levels."
The current trend in India when it comes to buying cars is disturbing. The primary requisite for most of us when buying cars is mileage. Features, design, technology follow. But safety offered by the cars is almost never on our minds, in stark contrast to consumers in Europe and America.
In some ways we are equally responsible for the current state of the matter. Naturally, if consumers demand safety manufacturers will definitely implement these features. Also, it is high time that the government of India raises car safety standards to match global standards and establishes an India NCAP programme.
Incidentally, the government is said to be already working on setting up a NCAP programme and it could come into effect in about a year and a half. Meanwhile, we hope Indian car manufacturers do not take things for granted and at least start offering airbags as a standard feature on all models and variants.
Crash test infographics can be read here
Tata Nano fails crash test conducted by Global NCAP.
Maruti Suzuki Alto fails crash test conducted by Global NCAP.
Hyundai i10 fails crash test conducted by Global NCAP.
Ford Figo fails crash test conducted by Global NCAP.