With safety norms in India strengthening, it’s the minivan segment that’s first to cut its losses. As it stands, come July, and vehicles (passenger) with less than 9 seats are mandated to feature added safety equipment – airbags, speed warning systems, seat-belt reminder, and reverse parking sensors.
Following installation of necessary safety equipment upgrades, come October 2019, vehicles will have to prove their crashworthiness. With minivans slotted in M1 vehicle category, the same category that houses hatchbacks, saloons, and station wagons, the minivans have an uphill task if they’re to be considered for crash tests.
With minivans built on LMV platforms (light trucks), safety standards don’t match those expected on today’s cars. As such, occupant safety continues to be a concern despite minivan models having shifted to a hard steel top over soft canvas covers seen in auto rickshaws.
Multi-seat people carriers have long been the backbone of commuter travel in areas where other options are scarce, and minivans frequent. However, the need for India to shift to higher standards of vehicle safety has long been awaited. With the country preparing to set into motion its own crash test norms, minivans don’t make the cut.
The multi-seater (4-8) vehicles have long held the public transport system together in entire regions across the country but will cease to exist. With minivans unable to meet safety requirements, the segment faces the axe with implementation of regulations. Changes warranted aren’t sudden but upgrading the vehicles isn’t a cost effective solution, and any attempts to resurrect it will be unsustainable.
The segment works because the vehicles on offer come with the promise of being affordable and favourable RoI. As these vehicles aren’t built on car platforms, structure and design vulnerability is one face of the problem. Cost of installing airbags and ABS, the other.
Facing extinction are a range of Tata Ace vehicles – Ace Magic, Magic Iris, and Magic Express. Others being axed are Mahindra Supro mini truck derivatives, and Jeeto. In fact, Mahindra has already discontinued Jeeto 4-5 seater. Past reports have already pointed to it being time to bid adieu to Maruti Omni, but it still has the bigger Eeco as an alternative. Eeco survives the current massacre since its built on a car platform, unlike the rest of the segment that’s truck-based.