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India puts safety shockers under microscope

Wipe out: The Indian-made Datsun Go folds up in the standard 64km/h frontal offset crash test.

Dud Datsun a no-Go as two more Indian cars score zero in crash safety ratings

5 Nov 2014

THE global independent New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) organisation has turned up the heat on two more international car-makers by releasing devastating zero-star safety ratings for two “new” car models in India where one person dies on the road on average every four minutes.

In one of the crash tests, the structure of the Nissan-made Datsun Go collapsed so badly that NCAP engineers concluded airbags would have been pointless, even if they had been fitted.

Although the cabin structure of the Maruti Suzuki Swift proved more resilient, it also scored zero points in the crash safety tests announced by Global NCAP at the launch in New Delhi of India’s own NCAP program, Bharat NCAP.

Bharat (an alternative name for India) NCAP is a collaboration between the Indian government and Institute of Road Traffic Education, and like similar organisations in eight other key markets, including Australia, it aims to give consumers a guide to vehicle safety while naming and shaming dud performers according to standardised tests.

So far, zero scores have been handed out by Global NCAP to seven Indian-made cars, bringing in to question the commitment of many motor companies to car safety in developing countries.

According to Reuters, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers replied by accusing Global NCAP of scaremongering.

An NCAP photograph of the 64km/h frontal offset crash test – a standard NCAP test around the globe – of the 2014 Datsun Go was particularly telling, revealing a massive buckle in the roof and body deformation almost to the rear hatch.

The front wheel was pushed back into the driver’s side cabin space, and the dummy’s head impacted the steering wheel.

In Australia and other western markets where five-star ratings are now the norm, such shoddy engineering would be unthinkable in 2014.

In India, the Go is the latest model from the born-again Datsun brand – Nissan’s low-cost supplier of cars in Third World markets.

Global NCAP secretary-general David Ward said it was disappointing to see a global company such as Nissan launch a new car design in 2014 that clearly fell below United Nations safety standards.

“This runs counter to the objectives of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety,” he said.

While Mr Ward praised the Indian government’s support of the newly created Bharat NCAP, he said it should be combined with official UN regulations for frontal and side impact.

“Prompt action such as this would prevent the introduction of brand-new models like Datsun Go which has a body so weak that it is pointless to fit an airbag,” he said.

Nissan and Suzuki are repeat offenders, with the Latin American branch of NCAP awarding zero stars to the Nissan Tsuru and Suzuki Alto K10 last year.

Early this year, the Indian market Maruti Suzuki Alto, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, Volkswagen Polo and Tata Nano were given zero-star safety ratings by Global NCAP.

ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh described the formation of Bharat NCAP as a positive step for Indian car safety.

“Bharat NCAP is the 10th NCAP to be formed around the world, and with India now the fifth largest producer of passenger cars, this new consumer program will no doubt have a direct effect on improving vehicle safety standards across India,” he said.

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