About a year ago, the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) made a decision that affected the ground clearance rating of all cars sold in India. ARAI changed its rule of measuring the ground clearance of cars at the time. Thanks to this decision, cars sold in India suffered from a massive reduction in the ‘published’ ground clearance. For example, while the Toyota Fortuner SUV has a ground clearance of 225 mm in Australia, the same SUV (thanks to the new rule) has a ground clearance of only 184 mm in India. Similarly, while the Volkswagen Tiguan has a ground clearance of 189 mm abroad, it offers only 149 mm of ground clearance in India. Allow us to explain this huge disparity.
What does the new rule say?
As per the update issued by ARAI last year, the ground clearance of a four-wheeler should be measured based on the vehicle’s laden weight (gross weight). Laden weight or gross weight is basically the total weight of a vehicle when it is fully loaded. In a laden state, the suspension of vehicles compresses, which, in turn, reduces the ground clearance. By changing the way of measuring the ground clearance, ARAI has managed to reduce the official ground clearance figures of every car by a huge margin.
What’s the rule internationally?
World-over, the ground clearance of a car is measured when the vehicle is in a totally unladen condition. This is the reason for the aforementioned premium SUVs having a higher ground clearance figures abroad than what they offer in India.
Will this rule change make a difference in the real world?
As you can notice, the new rule is all about changing the way we measure the ground clearance of a vehicle. So, basically, while the official ground clearance figures have seen a huge reduction, physically, the vehicles remain exactly the same. It’s just that the ground clearance has dropped on paper. In real world conditions, nothing changes. Hence, you shouldn’t worry about the reduced ground clearance figures when buying your next car.
But why this rule change?
There’s a big reason behind this change in the rule. Back in 2013, the Union Budget imposed an additional tax of 3 per cent on all vehicles that have a ground clearance of more than 170 mm. This led to a significant increase in the prices of many SUVs. Mahindra played smart and came up with a way to get around this rule. It re-positioned the stone-guard of the XUV500 to a slightly lower level. Back in the day, the official ground clearance figure was decided by taking into account the unladen weight. The new position of the stone-guard helped the XUV500 have a lower-than-170 mm ground clearance.
This helped the manufacturer avoid paying an additional tax. ARAI, however, was quick to figure out Mahindra’s cleverness. Hence, the regulatory body decided to change the way the ground clearance is measured. Through this change in rule, ARAI has managed to prevent carmakers like Mahindra from finding a workaround to paying the additional tax. Also, lowering the stone-guard to have an even lower ground clearance would have led to a lot of inconvenience for the vehicle owners. Come to think of it, the stone-guard would have scraped through even the minor obstacles owing to its lower position.