Zero stars: the horror crash test of Indian cars

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The horror crash test of Indian cars

The Indian VW Polo fails in the crash test

The British new car evaluation program "Global NCAP" tested the Indian VW Polo and the low-cost small car Tata Nano in cooperation with the ADAC. Both failed widely. Source: The World

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All five tested small cars from Indian production failed the crash test. The Tata Nano was the worst hit, but the Polo also got zero stars. VW draws conclusions.

Kcan a cheapest car be safe? When the Tata Nano, which is available in India for the equivalent of 1900 euros, hits the crash test barrier at 64 km / h, the answer is clear: no.

In the event of an impact, the front axle and the entire dashboard slide far in the direction of the occupants. The 3.10 meter short car dissipates too little energy at the front, so that the front window pillar (A pillar) collapses and the front half of the car almost completely folds up.

"Afterwards a shock absorber was on the driver’s knee," reports Alejandro Furas, test series coordinator at the ADAC safety center in Landsberg and also responsible for NCAP crash test series in Latin America, with a slight shudder.

Impact at 56 and 64 km / h

Even airbags or belt tensioners and tighteners could not have helped reduce injuries here. “The first guarantee is a stable passenger cell, as we saw in 2007 with the Brilliance BS6 from China,” says Volker Sandner, Head of Vehicle Safety in Landsberg. Despite airbags, the Brilliance had achieved a disastrous result.

For the first crash test of the globally active NCAP organization with Indian mass-produced vehicles, two copies of each of the five test vehicles were regularly bought from dealers in India and transported from there to Bavaria.

There were two frontal crashes, each with 40 percent overlap and two impact speeds of 56 and 64 km / h. The main actors alongside the Nano were India’s best-selling car with over 260,000 units annually, the Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, and the previous version of the Hyundai i10, which has just been launched in Europe.

Candidate number four was the Ford Figo – in principle a version of the Fiesta built in Europe until 2009, candidate five was the VW Polo built locally at the Pune plant. Together, the quintet represented 20 percent of the entire Indian car market.

No money left on airbags

The testers selected the basic version, which is standard worldwide for tests by NCAP organizations (the abbreviation stands for New Car Assessment Program). In the case of the Ford in particular, this rule had a negative effect.

Because the Figo is only available in the top Titanium version ex works with two airbags, the three equipment levels below only offer the steering wheel impact absorber as a (hard) impact cushion. At the time of the test in India, Volkswagen also offered the Polo without airbags – nowhere else is the base price of a small car as important as on the subcontinent.

According to the Federal Foreign Office, the average annual per capita income here is $ 1,127 (833 euros). Even if the car prices are tightly calculated (the VW Polo is available from 5900 euros), a new car is unaffordable for most Indians, and surcharges for airbags are significantly more significant than in Europe, for example.

In both crash scenarios, the Suzuki, Tata Nano and Hyundai i10 did nothing more than deliver on the promise of using machines to transport four occupants from A to B..

"The Tata Nano almost completely collapsed"

Comfort and safety are of secondary importance to them, and the images from the high-speed cameras moving along make you shudder. "The Tata Nano, whose structure is similar to that of the blessed VW Beetle, collapsed almost completely in the front area," says crash expert Sandner. "In the Suzuki, the deformations weren’t quite as high, in the Hyundai the cell would have remained almost intact, but there were already cracks."

With the Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo, which also received the devastating zero star rating, two airbags would have led to a significantly better result, says Sandner. "Because here the body structure is stable enough."

Of course, Volkswagen also knows this and immediately offered the testers a retrofitted India model with airbags for a second attempt. That was also driven against the wall – and received four out of five possible stars. That is why VW even fled to the front and is now only offering the India Polo with airbags at no surcharge.

The two air cushions are also available for the new Hyundai i10, known in India as the Grand i10 – albeit only at an additional cost. They are even standard in the Ford Fiesta, the model with a notchback body offered in India above the Figo.

Cheap constructions for cheap markets

Global NCAP also examined the Polo so critically because it wanted to draw a comparison between a model built in India and a model built in Europe, says Furas, who comes from Uruguay.

"During our tests for the South American market, we found several times that locally produced cars reached their limits much faster in a crash than the visually identical European models."

Furas cites the Nissan Micra / Nissan March, the Peugeot 206 Plus and the Dacia Sandero, which is sold in Brazil as the Renault Sandero, as examples. "Sometimes stiffeners or high-strength steels are left out for reasons of cost," says colleague Sandner, giving one reason for the deviating test results.

Security has its price. And so it is not only NCAP man Furas and ADAC colleague Sandner who want a regulation a la Brazil for India and other white spots such as Russia, Africa or Mexico: Since the beginning of January, only new cars have been registered with at least two airbags and ABS Have board. A regulation that put an end to the "Bulli", the second generation VW bus that had been built there for almost 46 years.

"Indians can expect the same level of security"

"Many cars built for export in India already meet these requirements," says Rohit Baluja, President of the Indian Institute for Traffic Education. “So it’s not a question of know-how, but a problem of getting the right funding. With binding laws prescribed by the United Nations, India could produce cars that are just as safe as Europe and the USA. "

Max Mosley, ex-head of the international automotive association FIA and chairman of Global NCAP, also calls for stricter regulations: “India has long been a large global market and a production location for many small cars. It is therefore frightening to see that this is 20 years behind the five-star results that are common in Europe and North America. Indian car buyers can expect the same level of security as customers in other parts of the world. "

Just like those from Mexico, which is best known as a car-producing country: Nissan, for example, is still building an ancient version of the Sentra B13, which is particularly popular with taxi drivers, under the name Tsuru. Crash test videos from Latin NCAP on YouTube give an idea of ​​the dangers that the passengers face.

The quietly suffering crash test dummies would also be happy about safer cars in the emerging countries. "We deliberately crashed the second Tata Nano as the last vehicle at 64 km / h," says Alejandro Furas. "Because after an accident in this car, our dummies have to be treated for a week."

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