Entry-level models like Maruti Alto, S-Presso and Renault Kwid are expected to bear a heavy brunt due to addition of four airbags
Despite a drop in market share in recent years, Maruti Suzuki remains the highest-selling OEM in the passenger vehicle segment in India. It is also the largest retailer of small cars in the country by a fair margin with multiple models like Alto, S-Presso, WagonR and Celerio.
However, fate of entry-level models from the Indo-Japanese brand remains uncertain due to the compulsory six airbags ruling mandated by the Government of India recently. This new mandate is expected to come into effect from October later this year. This concern was brought to light by Maruti Suzuki Chairman- RC Bhargava.
Future of Entry-Level Models Uncertain
In an interaction with Economic Times, Bhargava expressed his concerns regarding the future of small cars in India due to this new law. He further revealed that he is uncertain if six airbags will fit into small cars since they were not designed keeping 6 airbags in mind. Putting four extra airbags would increase the cost of cars significantly and might turn out to be a huge setback for the sales of small cars in the country.
Currently, two airbags are mandatory in all vehicles- one for the driver and one for the front passenger. The driver’s seat airbag rule was made mandatory in July 2019 while the one for the front passenger’s seat came into effect from January 2022. Maruti is studying the feasibility of adding four airbags to its entry-level models which are estimated to increase the final cost of a car by Rs 60,000.
Structural Updates & Additional Cost
This is a huge margin for an entry-level car and might result in discontinuation of some models or at least some variants from the company’s lineup. Addition of four airbags would also require cars to undergo some structural changes. While side airbags will be fitted on the back of front seats, curtain airbags will be installed on top of the B-pillar.
Most cars with just two airbags need to undergo these structural changes which require a further cost of re-engineering. While upgrading to six airbags makes sense for more premium cars, it doesn’t for entry-level cars in the sub-Rs 5 lakh price bracket. Addition of just two side airbags still seems feasible for entry-level models since that would result in an increase of price by Rs 30,000 which is acceptable for enhancing safety.
New Cars With 6 Airbags
Meanwhile, many new models that are being manufactured in the country have been developed with the scope of accommodating six airbags. As per a research study, the price impact of additional four airbags on a B-segment SUV would approximately turn out to be Rs 17,600.
Recently, Hyundai discontinued its entry-level offering- Santro, despite registering decent sales. Though the company never revealed the official reason, one of the reasons behind Santro getting axed is the upcoming 6 airbags rule. With its on-road price touching Rs 7.5 lakh already, addition of four airbags would lead to a price tag of over Rs 8 lakh which is too high for a small car.
Alto is the cheapest Maruti car on offer today. It is getting ready for a generation upgrade later this year. It is likely that the new gen Alto is launched with 6 airbags as standard. News about Maruti discontinuing the EECO has also surfaced, probably for the same reason. New gen EECO is expected to launch around Diwali 2022. More entry-level cars could face an axe once the deadline for this six airbag mandate comes nearer.