Automakers Are Selling Cars With Only a Single Airbag, Government Policy to be Blamed
The main reason that automobile makers go for a single airbag, foregoing the passenger-side airbag, is “price-sensitive” customers.
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If you are purchasing a new car and you are told at the showroom that some of the popular entry-level cars now come with one air-bag, on the driver's side, then don't blame the automobile companies. A Central government regulation made it mandatory for cars to have at least a single airbag, thus making it convenient for carmakers to provide just one airbag. However, safety experts say it is inadequate since it leaves the co-passengers sitting in the front seat vulnerable to grievous injury, or even death, in case of an accident, as per reports. Though the initial draft circulated by the Ministry of Road Transport over two years ago had proposed making two front airbags compulsory as part of a major overhaul of in-vehicle safety of passengers. However, somewhere along the line, the government either dropped the plan or it was left out by mistake.
Features including speed alert, reverse parking sensors and seat-belt reminder, which were low-cost inclusions, are now standard features in vehicles. Those features which are important for the safety of passengers sitting at the front seat of the car have not been mandated. After consultation with auto industry representatives, vehicle testing agencies and other departments of the government, the transport ministry on August 29, 2017, issued a revised draft notification stating that cars and taxis (M1 category vehicles) manufactured on or after April 1, 2019 “shall comply with additional safety features and its requirements stipulated in AIS-145 of 2017”.
The specific AIS (automotive industry standards) mentioned that only “driver airbag” has to be provided in all the cars. On December 7, 2017, the transport ministry’s final notification made it mandatory that M1 vehicles need to comply with the AIS-145 starting July 1, 2019. An official from the transport ministry said that soon a proposal would be brought forth to rectify the AIS code to make airbags mandatory for both driver and co-passenger in the front seat. The AIS codes are notified by testing agency Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) after the new standards get approved by a transport ministry-headed technical committee, ARAI and technical committee have more representatives from the auto industry.
An analysis of new entry-level cars in the market showed that there are at least three products, which are available with only one airbag on the driver’s side. In one of these cases, the car manufacturer gives an option of fixing an airbag for the co-passenger in the front seat. “We are complying with the regulatory condition. A passenger-side airbag is not mandatory. All vehicles in the market have also passed the mandatory crash test,” the daily quoted a company representative as saying.
According to sources in the automobile industry, one of the reasons companies go for a single airbag could be “price-sensitive” customers. In the last few months, some of the CEOs of auto companies have said that the cost of a car has gone up because of the new safety features such as airbags and anti-skid braking apart from mandatory third-party insurance for three years along with BS-VI standards. This has increased the costs of a car and buyers are shying away from making purchases, which has resulted in a slump in sales by the sharpest margin in nearly two decades.
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