Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, has requested the government to reconsider the mandatory six airbags rule as it will hurt the small car market, which is already shrinking. Speaking to PTI, Maruti Suzuki India’s Chairman, RC Bhargava, explained that this move can further hurt jobs in the industry.
The government, earlier this year, announced that all passenger vehicles must have a minimum of six airbags as standard. While this is not a concern for some carmakers such as Toyota, who already offer six airbags, it will hurt entry-level car sales.
To incorporate six airbags, say in a small car such as the Maruti Suzuki Alto, the carmaker needs to re-engineer the car to accommodate six airbags. Additional sensors will also need to be incorporated. This will result in cars becoming more expensive by around Rs 20,000.
The additional Rs 20,000 may not be much for cars that fall in the Rs 10 lakh and above budget, as customers will see this as a value-addition. However, for those customers looking to upgrade to an entry-level car from motorcycles, this will be a premium to pay.
Also, the added price for small cars will place them a segment higher, taking them out of reach for many buyers. In such a case, carmakers could discontinue models such as the Alto, but it will take away a huge chunk of sales for carmakers.
The previous norms introduced by the government of making one airbag mandatory in 2019, followed by two mandatory airbags in 2021, and the giant leap from BS-IV to BS-VI has made cars expensive, not to mention the three-year insurance rule hurt car sales. The Covid pandemic brought car sales to a halt in 2020, while the chip shortage was the fly in the ointment.
Road and passenger safety aspects should be considered, given that our highways now have higher speed limits. We will also need to consider if we need sales or safer roads for occupants and other users alike.