As Indian court bans unsafe cars, Global NCAP urges faster progress

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Many small cars popular in India have scored zero stars in Global NCAP crash tests
Many small cars popular in India have scored zero stars in Global NCAP crash tests
Global NCAP’s David Ward has urged Indian car makers to voluntarily raise safety standards
Global NCAP’s David Ward has urged Indian car makers to voluntarily raise safety standards

In a dramatic step to improve road safety, an Indian court has banned the sale of small cars that fail to meet minimum crash test standards, in a boost for Global NCAP’s campaign to promote tougher vehicle safety regulation.

The Guwahati High Court has issued an interim order banning the sale of unsafe small cars in the Indian State of Assam. The wider region, including five states, covered by the jurisdiction of the court accounts for around 12% of total car sales in India. In response to petitions for vehicle safety, which cited the Global New Car Assessment Programme’s test results of small cars in India, the Court ordered that the sale of all small cars that weigh under 1500kgs and don't meet international crash test be stopped. The state transport authority has been required to tell car dealers to stop selling products that fail to meet crash test standards. "The Centre is directed not to permit the auto manufacturers to release and sell the small four-wheelers with a mass up to 1,500 kg and quadricycles without putting them to crash test and emission test", the Guwahati High Court said.

In response to the court ruling Global NCAP has now called on Indian carmakers to voluntarily adopt United Nations safety standards for front and side impact from January 1, 2016. In a letter to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the global vehicle safety charity, which is funded by the FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, has encouraged automakers to take a voluntary initiative on car safety instead of waiting for the Indian government's new occupant protection regulations under the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme (BNVSAP), which will come into force in late 2017.

In his letter to SIAM, David Ward, Secretary General of Global NCAP wrote: "In the wake of the recent Assam Interim Court Order banning the sale of small four-wheelers that fail international crash tests, and ahead of the new occupant protection regulations being applied by the Indian Government from October 2017, Global NCAP respectfully encourages SIAM to take its own voluntary initiative on car safety. SIAM’s members could, for example, voluntarily apply the United Nations standards for front and side impact (UN Regulations 94 and 95) at least for new models from 1st January 2016. This is certainly feasible as all the major car companies, both domestic and international, with production facilities in India know exactly how to meet these global standards which originated in Europe over twenty years ago.”

Independent crash tests published by Global NCAP in 2014 highlighted for the first time the dire performance of popular small cars sold in India. Models tested included India’s best-selling car, the Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, the Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, Volkswagen Polo and Datsun GO. Combined sales of these five cars accounted for around 20% of all the new cars sold in India in 2013. All received zero-star adult protection ratings after a dismal performance in a frontal impact crash test at 64km/h. Some manufacturers have subsequently announced changes to their cars, including improved crashworthiness and air bags, in response to the tests and the huge publicity and public outcry which resulted.

Media coverage in India:

Sales of small cars like Alto, Swift take a hit as Assam bans cars failing crash test (The Economic Times)

Global NCAP Requests Indian Carmakers to Adopt UN Car Safety Standards (NDTV Auto)