The Minister of road transport and Highway (MORTH), Nitin Gadkari urges all carmakers to mandate 6 airbags and to introduce flex-fuel engines in a year. 

India’s journey towards greener and safer cars is relatively recent. There was no safety standard and the majority of cars did not come with airbags until recently. At present all carmakers are mandated to provide 2 airbags in all passenger vehicles. 

The Union minister, Nitin Gadkari in his tweet mentioned “ In the interest of passenger safety, I have also appealed to all private Vehicle Manufacturers to compulsorily provide a minimum of 6 airbags across all variants and segments of the vehicles”. 

The concept of Flex-Fuel engines has been around for a while and is increasing. For those unaware, Flex-fuel engines are capable of running on more than one type of fuel, either petrol, ethanol or a mixture of both (E20). 

The union had expressed their interest in using the flex-fuel engines for both two and four-wheelers in our market. In his tweet, Nitin Gadkari also mentioned  “Met a delegation of CEO’s of SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile manufacturers) in New Delhi today. Emphasized on the need for a quick roll-out of Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) capable of running on 100% ethanol and gasoline into the Indian auto market within a year’s time. 

The downside of implementing 6-airbags

Yes, the introduction of 6 airbags will make cars safer to drive. But the downside is the price. Mandating 2 airbags have increased the price of all vehicles across India. Now mandating 6 airbags will increase the price of low-level trims and worries many carmakers. 

R C Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd speaks about his concerns “It is all good to talk about more features but it all adds to the cost. Policymakers need to think in terms of the consumer – how much is he willing to pay and for what. That is my biggest grouse. Just because it is prevalent in some other market doesn’t mean it should be here. The per capita incomes are vastly different. Cars should not become so expensive that the masses cannot afford them”. 

President and Director of JATO Dynamics, Ravi Bhatia said “ Nobody can argue that cars should not be made safer. But globally consumers do not want to pay for the extra safety equipment. They would rather pay for better air conditioning or more fuel efficiency. They presume all cars are safe and want to take a chance on it”. 

However, the Union ministers’ concern for safety makes sense on a larger scale. Reports tell that 151,113 lives were lost in 2019, making India the most unsafe road to drive. Part of it is the lack of safety measures implemented in cars.