Volkswagen calls Bajaj “wrong and misleading”: Here’s why

Volkswagen and Bajaj Auto are having a war of words. Global NCAP has also joined this battle and is making some stinging comments against the Indian automaker. So, what has Bajaj done to earn it the ire of one of the world’s biggest car makers? Well, it has to do with the Qute quadricycle that Bajaj is now selling in Europe and other parts of the world.

Volkswagen calls Bajaj “wrong and misleading”: Here’s why

On 6th April, Euro NCAP (not related to Global NCAP) conducted a frontal crash test of the Bajaj Qute, and gave the driver airbag-equipped quadricycle a 1 star rating. Not one to miss a marketing opportunity, Bajaj issued a press statement on the 7th April, saying, “…in a recent Euro NCAP report, the Bajaj Qute was accorded a 1 (one) star rating, superior to the 0 (zero) star rating of popular cars including the VW Polo, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, Maruti Alto, and Tata Nano.

So, what’s the dispute all about?

Volkswagen calls Bajaj “wrong and misleading”: Here’s why

Bajaj Auto says that the Qute has a superior crash test rating than cars such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Figo, as the former got a 1 star rating from Euro NCAP while the latter got zero star ratings from Global NCAP.

Is this true?

Volkswagen calls Bajaj “wrong and misleading”: Here’s why

It isn’t. Bajaj is basically saying that since the Qute got a better (1 star) safety rating, it’s done better than the Polo/Figo (zero star). The whole comparison falls flat as both tests are completely different. Though Bajaj has later clarified that it said that the Qute is “relatively” better, even that argument does not fly. It’s like saying that I did better than Usain Bolt, relatively of course, because I came first in my school’s running race while Usain Bolt could manage only a second place in the Olympics.

Volkswagen calls Bajaj “wrong and misleading”: Here’s why

Moreover, Euro NCAP has clearly stated that the Qute’s body showed an unstable structure. It went on to add that the driver would suffer a serious or fatal injury in the event of a crash.  On the other hand, both the Ford Figo and the Volkswagen Polo’s structures were rated as stable by Global NCAP. So, how is the Qute better, even relatively speaking?

Why then did Bajaj put the Qute and cars such as the Volkswagen Polo in a single press release?

One word, marketing. Bajaj spotted an opportunity to highlight that the Qute got a 1 star rating while the Polo and Figo managed zeroes. So, it released the presser highlighting this. However, for a layperson reading the presser, it’s misleading as the Qute would come across as a car that has done better in a safety test than the likes of the Polo and Figo.

Read Volkswagen, Bajaj and Global NCAP’s statements below:

Both Volkswagen and Global NCAP aren’t happy with Bajaj’s original press release. Here’s Volkswagen’s response to Bajaj Auto’s claims:

It is to bring to your notice that the information issued by Bajaj Auto Ltd. with reference to Volkswagen Polo NCAP rating is misleading, incorrect and without ‎merit. Please note on 31st Jan.2014 Volkswagen issued a press statement confirming 4-star Global NCAP rating (adult occupants) for its Polo carline in India.

Global NCAP Secretary General David Ward also came down heavily on Bajaj Auto,

It is also very disappointing to read that Bajaj was also reported to be making comparisons between Global NCAP’s tests of Indian passenger cars suggesting that the Qute had performed better than cars with a zero star result. To make such a comparison is misleading and wrong. Although the one star awarded to the Qute was a slightly better result than some of the other vehicles tested, Euro NCAP stressed that your product does not perform well. They revealed a likelihood of severe or fatal head and chest injuries. Bajaj has the potential to be a world-class leader in promoting quadricycles if the company implements some recommendations by Euro NCAP to enhance the Qute’s safety quotient. 

Now, Bajaj Auto has issued another clarification that says,

While Bajaj Auto has yet to receive any communication from Global NCAP, basis media reports our comments are as follows –
1. Do we infer basis the results that we have seen that the Qute has achieved a safety rating on par with several European quadricycles & superior to many other European quadricycles? 
The answer is yes.
2. Do we infer basis the results that we have seen that while the Qute has achieved a 1 star rating in its category of quadricycles, several popular small cars have achieved a 0 star rating in their category?
The answer is yes.
3. Did we therefore mean to suggest that the Qute appears to have done RELATIVELY  better in its tests than those cars did in theirs?
The answer is yes.
4. Did we mean to suggest any more than this by implying that quadricycles & cars are one category, undergo the same tests, & hence that these results are DIRECTLY  comparable?
Absolutely not.
We would equally respectfully suggest that in the future Global NCAP reflect a little longer & exhibit greater maturity in drawing conclusions before venturing to cast unwarranted aspersion upon an organization that has a track record for integrity & performance as does Bajaj Auto.
Rajiv Bajaj,
Bajaj Auto, India.
Friday 8th April 2016