What the latest global crash tests say about Indian cars

The GNCAP test report, released on Tuesday, announced crash test results for two models of Kia Carens, Honda Amaze and Mahindra's Bolero Neo. (Bloomberg)
The GNCAP test report, released on Tuesday, announced crash test results for two models of Kia Carens, Honda Amaze and Mahindra's Bolero Neo. (Bloomberg)


  • Road-safety advocates voice need for standardizing critical safety features and for OEMs to play active role in improving safety benchmarks

NEW DELHI : Are cars safe in India? Some of them are, going by past crash test results, but some continue to fall short of safety standards under global crash test protocols. The latest round of test results from Global New Car Assessment Programme (GNCAP) has found serious safety shortcomings in some car models, prompting calls for industry-wide action to prioritize occupant and vehicle safety.

The GNCAP test report, released on Tuesday, announced crash test results for two models of Kia Carens, Honda Amaze and Mahindra's Bolero Neo. The Honda Amaze and Mahindra Bolero Neo disappointed with dismal safety ratings of two stars and one star, respectively, for adult occupant safety, and zero and one star, respectively, for child occupant safety.

Kia's Carens showed improvement in a retest, achieving three stars for adult safety and an impressive five stars for child occupants. However, concerns linger over the Carens' driver neck performance despite standard inclusion of six airbags, a release by the GNCAP said.

Also Read: Bharat NCAP versus Global NCAP: Regulations, differences, similarities - Explained

Safety concerns

Despite initiatives like GNCAP and the country's own crash-test programme Bharat New Car Assessment Program (BNCAP), some car manufacturers have fallen short in standardizing critical safety features, raising concerns about the preservation of human life on Indian roads.

The BNCAP, an indigenous programme developed by the Indian government in collaboration with its testing agencies and various other stakeholders, was launch last August, and is a voluntary testing program. BNCAP protocols are defined along the lines of the GNCAP, with the advantage that the cars can be tested by Indian agencies within the country, and at lower cost. Cars such as Tata Harrier and Safari secured five stars in BNCAP on both adult and child safety parameters. Other manufacturers such as Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor India have announced plans to put some of their cars through this test as well.

Despite the profusion of tests and increasing public glare on their results, some cars continue to remain ‘unsafe’. Piyush Tewari, founder of SaveLife Foundation, emphasized the importance of addressing passenger compartment intrusion, a leading cause of fatalities or severe injuries in car crashes.

Also Read: Year Ender 2023: Indian cars that passed Global NCAP crash test successfully

“As part of the forensic investigation of crashes that we undertake, we see that in six out of 10 cases, passenger compartment intrusion is the major cause of death or disability," said Tewari. “We find in many cases that happens at relatively low speeds, which tells us that vehicular safety aspects remain fairly weak in large parts of the country, including for people who don't use very expensive cars."

India saw 168,000 deaths from road accidents in 2022, a jump from 155,000 fatalities reported in 2021, according to data released by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH).

“Secondly, despite a high GNCAP rating leading to better sales, many car companies haven’t taken care to standardize these safety features; ‘policy following innovation’ is now an old school of thought that doesn't hold anymore," Tewari added. “OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have the capacity and responsibility to lead the way for policy changes by prioritizing safety enhancements and implementing life-saving technologies without waiting for regulatory mandates."

He stressed that the evidence from vehicle testing results is clear: safety features like seat belts, ABS and airbags save lives, and where these features aren’t possible to install, ‘surrogate’ safety measures should be installed—an initiative OEMs should proactively take.

Short of expectations 

Alejandro Furas, Global NCAP secretary general, expressed disappointment with the Bolero Neo's safety rating, emphasizing the importance of maintaining higher safety standards. “The Bolero Neo offers side seating benches, which pose a significant risk for all occupants. Mahindra falls disappointingly short of Global NCAP’s safety expectations with the continued use of this type of seating," he said in a statement.

“The agenda for safety was set in India around 2019 when Indian OEMs started sending cars for the GNCAP tests. With customer awareness increasing and both OEMs and the government starting to pay attention to safety, some Indian brands have also started articulating safety as one of the key dimensions of their brand. The government has also moved on that path and introduced BNCAP, which could guide Indian OEMs to safer cars," Ravi Bhatia, president, JATO Dynamics India said. “Since 2022, JATO has also started tracking car safety as part of our intelligence service, as safety becomes an important discussion globally. While technologies like ADAS will take time to become mainstream, mechanical and structural interventions to improve safety are paramount."

Carmakers reiterate commitment 

In response to the GNCAP ratings, OEMs emphasized their commitment to safety and ongoing efforts to enhance vehicle safety standards. Mahindra said that it is prioritizing customer safety, highlighting the safety ratings of models like the Thar, XUV700, XUV300, and Scorpio-N, which have received high ratings from GNCAP.

“The Bolero Neo is the trusted utility vehicle of choice in India, owing to its robust build, highly dependable nature, and its innate capability to handle a variety of usage conditions," the company said in a statement. “Bolero Neo has always complied with safety regulations that have been introduced over time and continues to be fully compliant with the latest Indian safety standards. As we are constantly innovating and improving our vehicles to exceed safety regulations, we want to assure our customers and stakeholders that Mahindra has significantly enhanced safety features in all our recent launches."

“The South Africa spec 2nd Generation Amaze has already been tested as 4-star by GNCAP in 2019," Honda Cars India said in a statement. “The latest test basis new protocol shows that the total score is of 5-star level. However, mainly due to requirement of certain equipment like electronic stability control and side curtain airbags, it resulted in lower rating."

Also Read: India's Bharat NCAP prepares to unveil first safety ratings for locally tested cars

“Carmakers in India have often been caught practising the double standard of shipping out vehicles for exports with a high level of safety equipment and selling the same models in India with much lower consideration for safety," Tewari said.

“The challenge has been that a lot of companies have failed to see the major causal factors of crashes. In rural areas, a large number of crashes occur because of rear-end collisions. So, if an OEM is unable to provide seat belts, then they must provide surrogate safety measures—like speed limitations. The question to ask is whether there have been enough consultations with stakeholders before saying a certain solution isn’t possible? Without adequate consultation, saying that an OEM is catering for a particular socio-economic environment isn’t a valid argument anymore," he added.


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