Delhi, India - The Tata Nano, billed as the world's cheapest car, and a host of other top-selling small models from India have failed their first independent crash tests, a global safety group has announced.
The five entry-level vehicles, including top-selling Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, as well as three cars sold in SA - the Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo - scored no stars out of five for protection.
The tests, carried out by Global NCAP, saw the basic models, all without airbags, crashed into a block at 64km/h to simulate a head-on collision.
However, that does not mean that the South African-spec models are necessarily unsafe.
Global NCAP tested only the basic models of the cars in question, which come without airbags on the Indian market. The organisation said that the Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo had structures that remained stable - and, therefore, with airbags fitted (as they are in South Africa), protection for the driver and front passenger would be much improved.
In fact, Global NCAP retested the Polo with airbags fitted after the non-airbag model was dropped from the line-up and the result was a four-star rating.
However, the Nano, the i10 and the Alto had “inadequate” structures that meant that even air bags would “not be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury”. Regarding the Hyundai, this raises a few questions as the European i10 achieved four stars in the EuroNCAP tests. SA’s i10 is built in India and has a driver’s side airbag as standard.
The secretary general of Global NCAP called all five vehicles “gratuitously dangerous” and blamed lax regulation which created an incentive to make cheap but structurally unsound vehicles for India's accident-prone roads.
“The injury recordings on the dummy, on the head, chest, and upper legs, they're in the red. The chances of surviving a crash are extremely low. It's either death or very serious injury,” David Ward told AFP.
He said trials in recent years in Latin America had shown similar problems but manufacturers there have begun to make progress thanks in part to adverse publicity.
China too has begun imposing higher safety standards.
NCAP also tested the Indian cars in a crash simulation according to United Nations standards - a frontal collision at the slightly slower speed of 56km/h - and none of them passed.
20 YEARS BEHIND
“It's worrying to see levels of safety that are 20 years behind the five-star standards now common in Europe and North America,” said Global NCAP chairman Max Mosley, the former chief of international motorsport.
India's roads are famously chaotic and among the most dangerous in the world.
Around 140 000 people were killed in road accidents in 2012, which works out to 16 an hour, according to the government's National Crime Records Bureau.
In reaction to the crash test results, Tata said its cars passed “all Indian safety regulations, including the frontal barrier crash test at 84km/h,” while Maruti Suzuki had no immediate reaction.
Hyundai said its “vehicles are designed and built to meet all the prescribed safety standards set by Indian Regulatory Authorities”.
Ford said safety was “one of the highest priorities in the design of our vehicles”.
“We are monitoring the progress of this review and will work with Indian authorities, GNCAP and the other relevant stake holders as appropriate,” a Ford spokesperson said.
AFP & IOL