Safety features at the lower end of the price spectrum for cars in India are literally nothing to speak of. It is in this backdrop that a global body testing cars worldwide for safety had recommended to the government that airbags, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), etc, be made mandatory, even for entry-level cars.
However, as FE reported yesterday, RC Bhargava, the chairman of Maruti Suzuki believes such a move will cause a worsening of road safety. He argues that such a recommendation ignores the “Indian conditions” such as price sensitiveness of the entry-level buyer—the safety additions increase the price of the car significantly in this segment.
This could affect car uptake and lead to a proliferation of two-wheelers, which put riders at a greater risk of road fatalities—“in car” fatalities make up only 16% of the overall road accident deaths in India, compared to 50% in Europe.
Bhargava, however, misses the bigger picture. With improved growth, there are improved roads and safety on these roads would need cars with airbags, ABS and the other features. Besides, if these are made mandatory, the economies of scale could make them much cheaper, given the sheer number of cars that would require them. So, for the chief of India’s largest car-maker to advise against ‘safety features in all cars’ is retrograde thinking.