Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava has asked whether car companies should follow the norms prescribed by the government or some private agency when it comes to crash tests.
Speaking to Moneycontrol on Thursday, Bhargava said: “What should be the parameter (of the tests)? The one that is defined by the government or those prescribed by some private agency?”
What is making Bhargava raise the question?
Car-crash tests done by Global NCAP, the UK-based privately funded agency, have hogged the limelight in India over the past few months. The latest is Mahindra & Mahindra’s runaway success, Thar, which landed a four-star safety rating. With that, the top five positions in the tests have been grabbed by homegrown auto companies, M&M and Tata Motors.
Global NCAP also tested one of Maruti Suzuki’s latest launches, the S-Presso, earlier in November. The micro SUV from the car market leader failed the crash tests, scoring zero stars in frontal impact. In 2019, Maruti Suzuki Ertiga and the Wagon R scored three and two stars, respectively.
This invited veiled jibes from Maruti Suzuki’s competition on social media. Taking to Twitter, Tata Motors shared an image of a cart with a broken wheel with an accompanying script that read: “Safety is ‘two’ important to be ignored. Be smart before someone overturns your caRt.”
The capital R in the spelling was the capital R in Wagon R while the reference to ‘two’ was the two-star rating the hatchback got in the NCAP test. Wagon R’s direct competition is the Tata Tiago, which received a four-star rating.
Prior to this, Tata Motors took potshots at the S-Presso, too. “Driving is #SeriouslyFun only when you live up with safety”, Tata Motors said on Twitter along with a photo which showed a broken coffee mug and an accompanying message that read, “We don’t break that easily”. Tata Motors does not have any product in the S-Presso segment.
Bhargava said that it follows the crash-test norms laid down by Indian laws for every car it launches here. The frontal offset test in India is conducted at 56km/hr, whereas the Global NCAP frontal offset test is done at 64km/hr. While the testing is done by government agencies at their facilities, currently, India does not have any star-rating style on crash safety like Global NCAP.
“A private company which has commercial interests of its own prescribes some (other) standards and the government prescribes some other standards. What should be followed is a question one needs to think about. Should any car company, and not just Maruti Suzuki, seek to comply with government standards or some private company standards? (Global) NCAP is a private company promoted by certain companies,” Bhargava added.
Mahindra XUV300 is ranked at the top by Global NCAP, giving it a five-star rating. Besides the Mahindra Thar in fourth position, three Tata Motors cars complete the top five ranking, fully dominated by homegrown companies. Tata Altroz and Tata Nexon occupy the second and third positions with five-star ratings, followed by the Tata Tiago in the fifth position.
M&M Chairman Anand Mahindra tweeted: “My 1st source of pride is that the 5 safest cars in India and Indian. My 2nd source of pride is that in the garage of Mahindra are 1) India’s safest car overall 2) India’s safest off-roader 3) India’s safest MPV (multi-purpose vehicle)”.
Bhargava’s response to Tata Motors tweets
Bhargava said that Maruti Suzuki is more interested in knowing what the consumer wants instead of what the competition is doing. He pointed out that Maruti’s volumes have not suffered despite the promotion done by the Global NCAP ratings done by its rivals.
“I have not seen the tweets (of Tata Motors) but I see what the customer wants. Anybody can write anything but the ultimate result is the customer. We are not interested in sales of A, B or C (companies), we are interested in what the customer wants. My focus is on the customer and not on anybody else,” Bhargava added.