Vishnu Mathur, the director general of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), defends Maruti Suzuki and Nissan India by claiming that Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) is a scaremonger. He says every country has its own safety requirements and the Indian cars that failed miserably in NCAP are very well meeting safety norms set by local government.Mathur stressed on the fact that Global NCAP test standards are not appropriate for India and crash tests must be conducted based on driving conditions here. He added that Global NCAP is conducting crash tests with high vehicle speed of 64 kmph, while, even a developed market like Europe requires crash tests at 56 kmph. Mathur says the average speed in India is far lower, and that there is no solid data to prove that a particular car is dangerous based on real-time accidents.
What Mathur may have failed to understand is that safety norms set by governments is just legislation, which only warrants a minimum amount of safety in vehicles, below which the product is explicitly unsafe, or unfit to ply on public roads. What Global NCAP is performing, is consumer testing, which shows how safe the vehicles really are, beyond government regulation.And, apparently, the director of SIAM has neglected that there is in fact a private organisation in India performing research on road accidents and vehicle safety. It funnels statistical data of crash investigations into a system / database named RASSI (Road Accident Sampling System – India), that is supported by a consortium of automobile and auto-components manufacturers in India. The members are using the data for safety and product development. It is to be noted that SIAM is indeed aware of the private body behind RASSI.
So, it is not the question of passenger vehicles meeting basic requirements set by the Government. It is about their safety in real situations. As per data issued by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), around 1,50,000 people die on the road each year. In which, fatal accident rate is one in every 3.7 minutes, 16 deaths each hour or 390 every day.
Of course not all of them involve four wheelers. But given the sheer number of hatchbacks sold in the country, around 45% of overall passenger car sales a month (according to July 2014 sales report), out of which Maruti Swift alone sells around 15,000 to 17,000 every month, the odds of finding a significant number of road accident deaths in such cars are on the higher side.
If SIAM does not encourage strict consumer testing of best selling cars, the legislation will not improve and the buyers will be left with increasing number of less safe car choices.