The transport ministry has been discussing whether seat belt will be enough to ensure safety of a passenger sitting next to the driver or is it necessary to make airbags mandatory
The government has proposed to make it mandatory for automakers to offer airbags for front passengers on new vehicle models manufactured from 1 April.
For those models produced currently, the new rule would be mandatory from 1 June, according to a draft notification issued by the Union road transport and highways ministry on Tuesday. Stakeholders can offer their comments to the government proposal over the next one month.
“Vehicles manufactured on and after 1st Day of April 2021, in the case of new models, and 1st day of June 2021, in the case of existing models, shall be fitted with airbag for the person occupying the front seat, other than the driver. The requirement for such airbag shall be as per AIS 145…under the Bureau of Indian Standards act, 2016," the notification said.
A senior government official said the transport ministry has been discussing whether a seat belt would be enough to ensure safety of a passenger sitting next to the driver or whether there is a need for making airbags mandatory. “We came to the conclusion that airbags for co-passenger on the front seat should also kick in," the official said.
The proposal, if implemented, will affect automakers, especially those making small cars, by increasing production costs. In the last few years, the government has been urging automakers to improve safety of vehicles and made mandatory features such as Antilock Braking System (ABS) and driver seat airbag in base models.
A senior industry executive said the time given to the industry is not adequate and that it will increase the cost of vehicles.
“In most of the developed market, such rules don’t exist. Though the industry knew about this new proposal, it will take some time for the industry to implement the changes. Carmakers are already reeling under the adverse impact of increased commodity prices and transportation charges and adding another airbag will lead to increase in cost. This might impact sales especially of the lower variants," the executive said, requesting anonymity.
Vinkesh Gulati, president, Federation Of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA), said the government step is “a much-needed safety norm which India should adopt and be at par with global standards."
He said, however, that “this will definitely increase the price of vehicles. BS6 norms has seen a big price increase, and now this will also come with a price increase. We hope OEMs should absorb the major cost of input due to the second air bag as it will impact the sales in short term".
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