Maruti Suzuki, India's largest carmaker, has asked the government to reconsider the necessary six airbags legislation, claiming that it will harm the already-shrinking small car industry. RC Bhargava, Chairperson of Maruti Suzuki India, explained that this action could further harm industry jobs.
While the number of road accidents in India is comparable to that of Japan and Germany, the number of fatalities is far higher. According to a World Bank report issued last year, India accounted for 11% of all road accident-related fatalities worldwide. Every year, over 1.5 lakh people are killed in vehicle accidents throughout the country. Because of these factors, it is critical to improving road safety.
To accommodate the additional four airbags, a lot of adjustments must be made to an entry-level vehicle such as the Maruti Suzuki Alto. Alto comes standard with driver and passenger airbags in its present configuration. The total cost of installing the extra airbags and sensors will be roughly Rs 20,000.
While the price increase due to six airbags may be doable for consumers purchasing entry-level SUVs and sedans, it can be difficult for first-time buyers. A person moving from a two-wheeler to an Alto, for example, may find it difficult to accept the higher cost. Such reasons may limit tiny car sales, leading the business to cancel particular models.
While the government may have solid reasons for mandating six airbags, Maruti's reasoning cannot be dismissed entirely. As a developing country, a large proportion of car customers rely on compact cars. If carmakers are compelled to stop tiny cars, the drive to promote CNG use will suffer. Currently, compact cars have the biggest sales of CNG models. Maruti is the leading manufacturer of factory-fitted CNG vehicles, therefore if the 6-airbag restriction has an unfavourable effect on sales, the company will suffer greatly.
It will be interesting to observe how the government handles the resistance to the 6-airbag regulation and whether a better-balanced solution can be found. Other measures, such as stiffer driving licence examinations and increased traffic safety awareness, may be required to make our roads safer.