New Delhi: A pair of India's most popular car models - the Maruti Suzuki Swift and the Datsun Go - crumpled in independent crash tests in ways that would likely lead to fatality or serious injury, a global car safety watchdog has disclosed.
The Go is an entry-level model, which competes with Maruti Suzuki's Alto800 and Hyundai Eon, while the Swift is positioned as a more premium hatchback.
For the bulk of cars sold within India, air bags remain optional and none are required to be tested for its ability to withstand a frontal collision.
The Swift has received a zero star rating in the 64 kmph frontal collision test. Two variants of the car were tested - one exported by Maruti to Latin America, and another which sells as the base variant here in India. Latin American market regulations mean that the car's base variant too has airbags/Anti-lock braking system (ABS), while in India neither is standard. (Watch: the test preparations and actual crash of Latin American export variant)
Global NCAP's testing protocol mandates that all cars (including the base variant or cheapest model) must carry at least airbags and ABS to get its certification; so on that count alone, the Indian Swift model, which sells for from Rs 4.5 to 7 lakhs, failed the test even before the test began.
For the Swift, analysis showed the crash-test-dummies having sustained near-fatal injuries, more so in the case of the driver. The car's structural integrity was also deemed as unstable.
The Datsun Go, which sells for about Rs 3.2 lakhs did not have airbags and ABS. The car's body shell disintegrated severely during the same kind of test. The driver and passenger dummies sustained fatal injuries to the head, torso and legs.
In January, four of five of India's small cars - including the Tata Nano, the best-selling Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 and the Hyundai i10 - failed crash tests performed by Global NCAP. (Read: Details of the first round of India crash tests by Global NCAP)
The lack of safety features in cars, combined with reckless driving and shoddy roads, has helped give India a road death rate that is more than six times as high as that of the United States and nearly three times China's rate, according to the World Health Organization's 2013 road safety report on the number of deaths compared with the size of a country's car fleet.
Seen another way, one in 10 people killed in a road accident worldwide is Indian.
The focus of these tests is to create awareness amongst Indian consumers, and also suggest the adoption of safety protocols by the government. Very often manufacturers claim they don't offer safety features in base versions because customers aren't willing to pay a little extra for them. (Read: What should you keep in mind when buying a car)
A proposal for new legislation on road safety has been sent by the government to Parliament. Sharing details with NDTV, the Road Transport Ministry says the proposal calls for the setting up of an India NCAP and adoption of safety standards that will mirror what's currently mandated in Western Europe.
All manufacturers whose cars are crash tested are always informed and invited to witness the test.
Datsun has told NDTV: "Automotive regulation standards in fast-growing countries are constantly evolving and as a global manufacturer, we are willing to adopt as well as help evolve standards in vehicular safety."
Maruti Suzuki's comment: "The cars manufactured and sold by Maruti Suzuki in India fully conform to all the regulations that are presently applicable in India. On similar lines, cars manufactured by Maruti Suzuki in India for export to international markets fully conform to all the regulations of the respective importing country. Maruti Suzuki is committed towards Safety- safety for customers and for public at large. We have given a choice to the customers to select variants having air-bags & ABS."