By Swaraj Baggonkar
From making provision for three-point seat belts for all seats to installing sensors that would trigger alarms, carmakers are expecting a cost increase of Rs 3,500 to Rs 12,000 to make these changes in vehicles following the directive by road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari.
Sensors beneath each seat to sense the weight, additional wiring, new seat belts that can be linked to the electronic control units that will trigger alarms, are some of the areas which will push costs, say seat belt providers and carmakers. but these would not be that steep to deter consumer demand. Passenger vehicle manufacturers are all for this safety measure and have welcomed Gadkari’s move.
On September 6, Gadkari tweeted that wearing of seat belts for all passengers will be made mandatory. An alarm system will also be added compulsorily to all new cars. A notification to this effect will be issued by his ministry this week.
While seat belt reminders (alarms) were made mandatory from July 2019, they were only for the front two seats. Most cars sold in India do not offer a three-point seat belt for the occupant seated in the centre in the rear. The middle rear seat, especially in budget cars, comes with a lap seat belt similar to the ones provided in passenger aircrafts.
“Small cars do not get treated as a five-seater, and therefore not every seat gets a three-point seat belt. We are expecting a total cost increase of anywhere between Rs 3,500 to Rs 9,000 for a five-seater and up to Rs 12,000 for a seven-seater,” said a supplier of automotive seat belts.
“The cost impact per seat belt and buckle would be about Rs 250 to Rs 300 per occupant,” said another leading supplier of seat belts.
In February this year, Gadkari had spoken about making it compulsory for carmakers to offer three-point seat belts for all front facing seats. Even the third-row seats, in some large SUVs, come with three-point seat belts but only two-point belts for the middle passenger in the second row.
On Tuesday, Gadkari pointed out that though there is a provision of laying a penalty of Rs 1,000 for not wearing seat belts in the rear, there was little compliance of this law either due to passenger ignorance or no strict enforcement of the rule.
“Besides the cost factor there is also the issue of homologation. Such changes to the vehicle need the go-ahead from the testing agencies which are already working on various other compliances,” said a senior executive of a leading car brand.
Shailesh Chandra, managing director, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles and Tata Passenger Electric Mobility said, “Tata Motors has always supported the government’s mission of safer mobility in the country and we have complied with all the regulations mandated by the Centre. We remain committed to providing safer vehicles to our customers and we will assess the impact in terms of implementation once it is formalised”.
Market watchers point out that the implementation of this rule will be totally dependent on passengers following it.
A draft notification was issued in January this year by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) which mandates the fitment of six airbags for a vehicle having a seating capacity of eight from October 1. Currently, only two airbags are mandatory. While less than a month remains, the government is still hopeful of its implementation.