Global NCAP says cars unsafe; Car makers say meet Indian safety standards, but what exactly are they

Recently, the Global NCAP crash tested 5 cars (Scorpio, Kwid, Eeco, Celerio and Eon), and found that none of the cars are safe. All cars got a ZERO star rating for safety and all of them were declared to have “unstable” body structures. Following this, Global NCAP said that an accident in any of these cars can cause life threatening injuries.

Mahindra Scorpio Global NCAP Test

The Indian automakers (Maruti, Mahindra, Renault and Hyundai) reacted almost immediately to the Global NCAP report, and said that the cars that they sell in India meet “Indian safety standards”. So, what are these safety standards and how are they different from global safety standards? We explain.

  1. In India, a full car is NOT crash tested at all. Yes, it’s true. Full car crash testing is not required as per the CMVR (Central Motor Vehicle Rules), and all Indian automakers follow this. So, when you have the automakers saying that the cars sold in India meet all “Indian standards”, it means that the said cars have not been crash tested, but that component level testing has happened.
  2. India has a component level testing program as prescribed by the CMVR that all vehicles sold here must adhere to. In this test, the authorities measure the distance the steering column moves into the cabin after the full frontal crash. If it moves less than 128 mm, the car is considered to have passed the crash test. This is an antiquated test that none of the developed countries use.
  3. On the other hand, the Global NCAP has a vehicle level testing program. It conducts the offset collision test with an actual car, at a speed of 64 Kmph. Presently, India does not have such a test in place. When the BNVSAP norms come into place in 2017, cars sold in India will be tested for a frontal offset crash at 56 Kmph instead of 64 Kmph. Notably, 56 Kmph is the speed that developed countries also follow when it comes to frontal crash tests.
  4. The offset front crash test of the Global NCAP considers different parameters such as chest loading, knee loading and head loading, which measure the amount of force that acts on the driver and front passenger of the car. The component level test conducted in India does not measure any of these vital parameters that can be used to determine the “survivability” of a person in a car crash. These parameters also help in deciding whether the car is safe or not.
  5. Global NCAP has a side impact test that measures the force transmitted onto the passenger cell (cabin) of the car during an impact from the side. This test also checks if the car’s body is stable during a side impact. India, on the other hand, has a side intrusion test instead of a side impact test. Again, here the test is carried out at a component level, similar to the steering column test.

To sum things up,

  1. India’s crash testing system is outdated, and we’ll only have new crash test norms (Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program or BNVSAP) only in 2017.
  2. Even in 2017, only new cars launched after the BVNSAP has been implemented need to meet the crash test norms. Older (current) cars have until 2020 before they meet BVNSAP norms.
  3. All cars presently sold in India are “safe” according to the outdated CMVR.
  4. Global NCAP is right when it says that “there is a very high risk of death or serious injury” in ZERO star cars in case of a frontal crash.
  5. Indian automakers are also right when they say that the cars they build meet all “Indian safety standards”.