Car safety campaigning is under way in India. A participatory strategy development workshop was held in Chennai in February. Swathy Satyamurti, Director of Projects at the Consumers Association of India, reflects on what was achieved.

In 2014, the Global New Car Assessment Programme (GNCAP) focussed on the Indian market and tested five popular cars sold in India for crash worthiness. Seeing the most popular small cars (Tata Nano, Maruti Alto, VW Polio, Hyundai i10 and Ford Figo) get Zero star rating and miserably fail safety tests was a clear wakeup call to the Indian Government. Soon thereafter, plans for stringent test regulations as well as India’s own NCAP called Bharath New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme (BNVSAP) were announced late last year.

India has no dearth of laws, the problem is lack of implementation. Also, very little information was available about the implementation of the revised regulations.

Given this background, it was very timely of Consumers International (CI) to call for a focussed car safety campaign strategy building workshop in India with five member organizations (CAG, CAI, CERC, CUTS and Voice) that were identified to be actively working on car/road safety.

Day 1: Tuesday, Feb 9th

1. Bajaj, a leading auto manufacturer in India has announced launch of a four wheeler called Qute. Although to most people it looks like a small car, it is a ‘Quadricycle’,.
2. According to Rahul Bajaj, the company’s managing director, “it provides a very logical upgrade from a three-wheeler for people who want to pay a little more and want to have the comfort and safety of four wheels, four doors, a roof and seatbelts,”

3. The definition/classification of the quadricycle has gotten it into a legal tangle with multiple petitions in various high courts and now in the Supreme Court questioning the Centre’s (ie the Central Government’s) process for creating a new vehicle segment.

4. The Qute is therefore now available only for export markets

5. Car safety is a very important issue for India – not simply because India is one of the top five car markets in the world,but also because it is the only one in that list without an effective car safety programme or stringent regulations in place.

Day 2: Wednesday, Feb 10th – Visit to GARC

One of the largest vehicle testing facilities in India, Global Automotive Research Centre (GARC) is located right here in Chennai. Mr. Hariharan and his team gave us a detailed presentation about:

1. BNVSAP -management structure, test guidelines, timeline for implementation, etc.

2. CMVR (Central Motor Vehicle Regulations) revisions – Government of India has amended the regulations to mandate frontal, side impact and passenger safety tests for all new vehicles by October 2017.

3. GARC readiness – expected to be fully operational by October 2016.

In the discussions that followed, it was interesting to note Mr. Hariharan say that, “.. the safer the car is, the rasher the driver will drive”. Hence the Indian Government does not want to make cars very safe by mandating all crash tests right away. Instead, it will be done in a phased manner. This to me sounded more like a ploy to delay implementation of tests. It is therefore imperative that consumer organizations work together to put pressure on both the policy makers and the auto manufacturers.

After treating us to a good meal in their cafeteria, the team took us around their 300 acre facility and gave us a look into the testing tracks and the labs (of course strictly with no photographs in some labs to maintain confidentiality). It was a day well spent and we came back to the hotel overloaded with information.

Day 3: Strategy building with timelines.

1. We built a specific game plan of action for each strategy.

2. A strategy to approach policy makers to request inclusion of consumer organizations into the BNVSAP committee / Board was discussed and agreed. It was also agreed that we need to put pressure on auto manufacturers to adopt safety measures in line with UNECE guidelines.

3. A lot of work needs to be done post the workshop .

Follow our campaign progress on #no zero star cars and the CI campaign pages.

Guide to approaching a consumer court

India's first practical guide to resolving your complaints by approaching consumer court. Guidance
Customer Complaint


Enter your email address to subscribe to our Newsletter.