Safety takes the driver's seat as Indian consumer preference witnesses shift

Numerous surveys indicate that Indian consumers are willing to invest extra money to purchase safer vehicles. Responding to this demand, many Indian O
Punch EV safety
Many of the Indian OEMs are shifting thier focus on vehicle safety as consumer preference witnesses a shift
Punch EV safety
Many of the Indian OEMs are shifting thier focus on vehicle safety as consumer preference witnesses a shift

Safety is taking the driver's seat in the Indian automotive industry, with a noticeable shift towards prioritising safety features. In recent years, Indian auto OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have been making concerted efforts to enhance safety across their vehicle lineup.

Tata Motors, a frontrunner in this endeavor, recently announced a significant milestone with its updated Nexon SUV achieving a full five-star safety rating from the Global NCAP crash test. Scoring 32.22 points out of 34 for adult protection and 44.52 points out of 49 for child protection, the Nexon continues Tata's legacy of safety. The first-generation Nexon was the first Indian car to achieve a five-star rating from Global NCAP back in 2018.

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Also Read : Tata Nexon facelift scores five star safety rating at Global NCAP crash test

Following suit, other Indian OEMs are also ramping up their safety initiatives. Citroen India, for instance, has decided to equip all its car models with six airbags as standard, significantly enhancing the safety credentials of its offerings. Additionally, features like ISOFIX seat anchorage and rear seatbelt reminders will also be standard across all cars and variants.

Hyundai and Kia, the Korean carmakers, have also announced similar strategies.Hyundai, in particular, has expressed a strong commitment to democratising safety by focusing on making safer vehicles accessible to all. Beyond six airbags, Hyundai is also looking at standardising Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) across its models, reflecting a comprehensive approach to vehicle safety.

With these initiatives, Indian automakers are not just meeting regulatory requirements but also proactively enhancing safety standards. As road infrastructure improves, the push for safer vehicles becomes increasingly important.

Why this shift?

In the ever-evolving landscape of the automotive industry, consumer preferences are undergoing a significant transformation, with safety emerging as a top priority. Recent surveys and studies conducted by leading automakers and research firms shed light on this shifting consumer dynamic.

Hyundai's recent survey offered customers a choice of four packages, with the majority opting for safety. This trend indicates a growing maturity among consumers, who are increasingly prioritizing safety features in their vehicles. Similarly, Citroen's research found that customers now view safety as an equally important requirement alongside driving comfort and features, signifying a fundamental shift in consumer mindset.

Deloitte's 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study reinforces this trend, highlighting that cost is no longer the primary determinant for consumers. Instead, the average consumer is prioritizing experience, with factors such as product quality, vehicle features, and brand image taking precedence.

Also Read : Nexon to Scorpio-N: India's safest SUVs with five-star safety rating

Safety has emerged as a key priority for Indian consumers, with a significant percentage preferring updates on safer routes, maintenance alerts, and vehicle health reporting to improve road safety and prevent potential collisions. Frost & Sullivan's survey revealed that 58% of respondents are willing to stretch their budget for a safer vehicle, highlighting the increasing importance of safety ratings in purchasing decisions.

Skoda Auto's survey further underscores this trend, with nine out of ten customers believing that all cars in India should have a safety rating. The car's crash rating emerged as the top driver of customer purchase decisions, followed closely by the number of airbags, indicating a strong emphasis on safety features among consumers.

Ashish Gupta, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India, said that the company has observed a significant evolution in customer preferences, with safety and build quality features now commanding the spotlight over traditional factors like fuel efficiency and price of the vehicle.

As consumer preferences continue to evolve, automakers are increasingly focusing on enhancing the safety features of their vehicles to meet the growing demand for safer driving experiences. This shift not only reflects changing consumer dynamics but also underscores the importance of safety in the automotive industry today.

Government’s role

While the addition of six airbags and other safety features represents an initial step, the focus is also on incorporating crash test ratings and other advanced safety measures to uphold stringent design standards for enhanced safety.

In a bid to enhance safety on Indian roads, the Government of India introduced the AIS-197 Bharat New Car Assessment Program (BNCAP), signaling a significant shift in the country's automotive safety standards. Launched in August 2023, this program mandates comprehensive safety evaluations for all vehicle models, focusing on Adult Occupant Protection (AOP), Child Occupant Protection (COP), and Safety Assist Technologies (SAT).

Also Read : Maruti Suzuki crash testing its Fronx SUV, likely to send for BNCAP test

Under the AIS-197 standard, applicable to type-approved motor vehicles of the M1 category less than 3.5T GVW, manufacturers are required to subject base variants of their models to rigorous crash tests conducted by approved test laboratories such as GARC Chennai, ICAT Manesar, and ARAI Pune. These tests aim to assess the vehicles' safety performance, after which they are awarded star ratings based on their performance.

One of the key features of the AIS-197 program is its voluntary nature, which allows manufacturers to participate in the program voluntarily. This approach is expected to encourage manufacturers to prioritize safety features and technologies in their vehicles, leading to safer vehicles for consumers.

The introduction of AIS-197 has been met with enthusiasm by industry stakeholders. Manufacturers and component suppliers see this as an opportunity to develop high-quality products that meet both domestic and international safety standards. For consumers, this means access to safer vehicles that comply with the new safety protocols.

Furthermore, the implementation of the BNCAP regime has led to a revision of the government's earlier proposal to mandate six airbags in all new cars in India. The stringent protocols of the BNCAP regime are expected to drive carmakers to offer these passive safety solutions to achieve higher star ratings, ensuring that safety remains a top priority in the automotive industry.

As India takes a proactive stance towards improving road safety, the AIS-197 Bharat New Car Assessment Program represents a significant step forward. By fostering a culture of safety and accountability, this programme aims to make Indian roads safer for motorists and passengers alike.

First Published Date: 15 Feb 2024, 17:30 PM IST

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