Last year automotive industry regulators, safety bodies and most importantly, Global NCAP, which tests the safety of new cards in various territories around the world, were shocked to find that Nissan’s Datsun Go, a new small form factor vehicle set to go on sale in India, offered almost zero protection for drivers, passengers or pedestrians at even modest speeds. Fortunately, in what is being hailed as a landmark victory for safety proponents, Nissan has now agreed to strengthen the car’s bodywork and to add airbags to make it that bit safer.
Initially Nissan was very defensive about its new vehicle, stating that any pressure to force higher safety ratings on manufacturers in the country would lead to higher prices, which in turn would see people buy motorbikes instead of cars. Those, it argued, were even more unsafe than its unsafe – but affordable – car. However, Global NCAP was able to lobby for governments to join it in pressuring companies like Nissan to implement new, basic levels of safety for vehicles everywhere, regardless of what territory they are released in.
And now, after months and months of work, it seems to have paid off and Nissan will be fixing its Datsun Go and will make sure all cars released in India in the future meet a new minimum safety standard.
“Crash-test standards introduced 20 years ago for cars sold in Europe are yet to be met by many new cars being sold today in leading middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America,” said chairman of Global NCAP, Max Mosley. “This is entirely unacceptable. Manufacturers cannot continue to treat millions of their customers as second-class citizens when it comes to life-saving standards of occupant protection.”
On the subject of whether drivers would be willing to pay the increased cost of the additional safety features, Mosley and fellow NCAP workers believe that the price increase on each Datsun Go should be no more than $200, which they say many would be willing to pay since it could be a life saving difference.
David Ward, chief executive of Global NCAP also believes that these concerns over price are unfounded, suggesting that it is not the customer that doesn’t want to spend the extra money on safety, but the car manufacturer, which is too driven by profits to see that it’s putting drivers’ lives at risk.
Now Global NCAP may look to other manufacturers, which also released vehicles with poor safety ratings in India. The Suzuki Swift received a zero rating in testing, as well as the Suzuki Alto 800, Hyundai i10 and the Ford Figo.