Opinion: All Eyes On Maruti Suzuki As Govt Launches Bharat NCAP Safety Ratings

While Maruti Suzuki has been drawing a lot of flak on social media for its vehicle safety standards, Bharat NCAP can prove to be a saviour for the India's largest carmaker with dwindling market share.

As the government of India has launched the Bharat NCAP safety ratings for India, all eyes are now on India's largest automaker Maruti Suzuki. The automaker said it will offer at least three models for testing under the programme in the first lot itself. As per various media reports, the Indo-Japanese automaker will offer Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Maruti Suzuki Brezza and Maruti Suzuzki Grand Vitara for the newly launched Bharat NCAP tests. Maruti Suzuki also hailed India's first crash testing programme Bharat NCAP, saying it will further elevate vehicle safety standards in the country.

"Any car that is launched in India follows the mandatory safety standards set by the government and is therefore safe. For consumers seeking extra safety or manufacturers offering extra safety features the Bharat NCAP (BNCAP) system is an authentic and objective rating system to empower the customer to make an informed choice," Maruti Suzuki India Executive Officer, corporate affairs, Rahul Bharti said in a statement.

As an authentic and objective rating system it will help customers take informed purchase decisions. He further said, "Maruti Suzuki welcomes this initiative of the government and will offer at least three models for BNCAP testing in the first lot itself." Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday launched the Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme), which is aimed at improving road safety standards of motor vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.

Maruti Suzuki's Questionnable Safety Standards

Maruti Suzuki is the largest carmaker in India with over 40 percent market share. On an average 7 out of top 10 best selling cars on monthly basis belong to Maruti Suzuki, yet safety has never been a trademark of the automaker. Maruti Suzuki is known for making value-for-money and frugal four-wheelers for ages. However, with rising focus on road safety, buyers are swaying away from Maruti Suzuki cars and moving towards cars with better safety features and ratings.

Part reason for this is that Maruti Suzuki doesn't send its cars for testing with Global NCAP, a crash test safety agency testing cars under SaferCarsForIndia campaign. They independently sourced Maruti Suzuki cars like Alto, S-Presso, Swift among others, and all of them, leaving aside the older-gen Vitara Brezza failed to score good stars. A handful of them even scored zero safety stars in the test.

On the other hand, cars from Tata Motors and Mahindra are scoring 4 and 5 stars at the Global NCAP, which has helped them gain a significant market share in India. Maruti Suzuki, on the other hand, has often defended its move of not getting its cars tested by Global NCAP by stating that they adhere all prevelant rules applicable in India. 

R C Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki, previously said that focus should be on reducing the number of accidents rather than the crash safety in itself. “Putting NCAP standards into cars in India will have no significant impact on number of accidents at all,” he says. Maruti Suzuki draws a lot of flak on social media for its stance on the NCAP safety tests. With Bharat NCAP coming into picture, its likely that Maruti Suzuki will get most of its cars tested and they will do fairly well, as the previous gen Brezza received 4-Star Global NCAP ratings.

About Bharat NCAP

Bharat NCAP will be implemented from October 1, 2023 in India and under the programme, car manufacturers can voluntarily offer their vehicles tested as per the Automotive Industry Standard (AIS) 197. Based on the performance of the car in the tests, the vehicle will be awarded star ratings on a scale of 0-5, for adult occupants (AOP) and child occupants (COP). At the launch event, Gadkari said the BNCAP mechanism has been prepared in a systematic way keeping all stakeholders' view into account.

Addressing a gathering following the launching of Bharat NCAP, Gadkari said: "Today is a very important day in the history of Indian automobile industry but even also it is important for the society. I really appreciate the way in which the Indian automobile industry cooperates and because of their cooperation today it is a time for all of us that we are launching the Bharat NCAP programme."