“When you really think of it should safety not be related to preventing accidents?” says Maruti Suzuki chairman R C Bhargava on NCAP crash test results
Maruti Suzuki has been in the news again due to its dismal performance in the recent NCAP crash tests. The Maruti Suzuki Swift, Ignis and S-Presso all scored zero stars in the recent GNCAP tests, once again causing an uproar on social media on the market leader’s responsibility to its customers. On most occasions, Maruti Suzuki’s responses to the safety of its cars is the corporate line of it meeting the current safety standards laid down by the authorities today. However, R C Bhargava has finally opened up about Maruti Suzuki’s stance on crash tests, accidents in the country, and how we need to navigate road safety in the country. “Nobody looks at why do accidents happen in India. When you really think of it, should safety not be related to preventing accidents?”
When talking about road safety in India, Bhargava focuses on reducing the number of accidents rather than the crash safety in itself. “Putting NCAP standards into cars in India will have no significant impact on number of accidents at all,” he says. This is a fair argument to make, because NCAP tests determine what a car does after the accident happens. He continues to elaborate on what he believes are the big concerns that need to be addressed.
“There are two major areas we [India] are way behind others. [First is] Vehicle fitness. How do you ensure vehicles on road remain as compliant with safety features [that were installed during manufacturing]? There are no laws, no regulation, to govern that. [There is] No certification for vehicle fitness. Lots of accidents due to failure of some systems,” he says.
He then goes on to the second bit of his argument: “How much does a person who gets a license know how to drive safely and correctly? There’s no such thing in India (referring to rigorous training and licensing laws in other countries). Driver error is major cause [of accidents]… not only driver, but other factors like wrong side driving.” He goes on to talk about other seemingly unimportant factors on the road that do go a long way to contributing to road safety. “We can’t do a simple thing like putting proper signages.” Circling back to the safety systems on cars, he says, “We are looking at safety features that make them [cars] more expensive. [But] Is it not as important to have proper vehicle and driver fitness?”
Speaking about what Maruti Suzuki is doing for safety in India, he says, “Maruti has developed whole lot of [safety] systems. Driving schools have simulators. Funded largely in Delhi ways of enforcing traffic laws with cameras and ways of prosecution. Trying to get state laws to change driving tests but for various reasons that is not happening.”
Bhargava also has strong opinions on NCAP and the way that it functions. “NCAP assumes all regulators world over really don’t know their business”, he says while addressing the concerns that people have about how Maruti’s cars performed. “NCAP [thinks they] know their business better than anybody. NCAP funded to large extent by automotive component manufacturers like airbags.” Bhargava’s and Maruti Suzuki’s stance is clear. “Putting NCAP standards into cars in india will have no significant impact on number of accidents at all. Prevention far better than cure,” he ends with.
Rahul Bharti, Executive Director (Corporate Affairs), added, “Sometimes perceptions are based on fickle parameters. In many of our models we go much beyond compliance. We are a company of good engineers but not so good communicators.”
Bhargava’s comments are certainly fair — NCAP tests cannot reduce the number of accidents, and India has a long way to go in terms of regulations, infrastructure, driver training and enforcement of road rules. However, while prevention is better than cure, it is also fair to say that the situation today is such that accidents are a sad reality on our roads and a driver behind the wheel of a car that will crash well is safer than one behind the wheel of one that won’t. What is your opinion on R C Bhargava’s comments on road safety and the GNCAP tests? Join our discussion on Instagram!