The government is close to finalizing rules for recalling defective vehicles and agencies that test vehicles to ensure companies meet safety and emission norms, two officials aware of the matter said.
Roads ministry officials and automobile industry executives last week discussed so-called trigger points for the government to direct vehicle recalls, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Rules for accreditation, registration and regulation of testing agencies are also in the works to ensure defective vehicles are not cleared for production.
Officials from the Union road transport ministry and representatives from automobile lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam) and testing agencies, such as the International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) and the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), participated in the meeting.
According to the first of the two officials cited above, the government plans to finalize these rules in the next one month. “Vehicle safety and emission norms will be the key area of focus. However, it is very important to decide on the trigger, based on which we can ask these companies to recall vehicles. We need to fix the percentage of defective vehicles that will trigger a recall. We will decide on that in consultation with the industry associations," the official said.
The number of cars produced by a luxury carmaker is fewer than other mass-market manufacturers. Hence, the trigger point for recall cannot be the same for all, the person added.
As of now, manufacturers voluntarily recall vehicles that do not meet minimum safety standards, or those found to have any defect that may affect the buyer, to replace parts or fix the problem. However, under the recently amended Motor Vehicles Act, the government can order a recall if a vehicle defect hurts the environment, car owners, or road users.
“While we want to ensure that a consumer doesn’t get defective or inferior quality vehicles, we don’t want to make rules that could negatively impact the automobile industry as companies have to incur huge costs owing to even voluntary recall," the official explained.
There will also be rules for accreditation, registration and regulation of testing agencies, the official said.
Under the Motor Vehicles Act that was amended in August, if a vehicle having a type approval certificate is recalled, the government can cancel the accreditation and registration of the testing agency that certified the vehicle.
Recently, top automakers, such as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd, urged their component suppliers to build capabilities by investing in research and development, and ensure zero-defect products.
In the past decade, several carmakers in India have issued voluntary recalls due to defects. In July, Ford India said it will recall and inspect over 50,000 cars for a possible defect in airbags and wiring harness of batteries. Similarly, in August, Maruti Suzuki had issued a recall of its WagonR hatchbacks to correct a defect in the fuel hose unit that had impacted over 40,000 units manufactured between 15 November 2018 and 12 August 2019.
In 2015, German carmaker Volkswagen was found guilty of not adhering to emission standards, prompting the government to include a clause empowering it to order vehicle recall in the recently amended law.
Under the Act, if found guilty of faulty production or using inferior quality products, the manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will have to reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle, or replace the defective vehicle.