'NCAP doesn't have any authority to dictate to any government or private company.'
Guillaume Sicard, president - Nissan India operations, in an exclusive interview with Autocar Professional's Sumantra B Barooah, says the recent G-NCAP test results for the Datsun Go will not impact Nissan's strategy for Datsun.
How have you taken the Datsun Go's NCAP test results?
The first thing we have done is to tell all stakeholders (employees, the network, the people from the plant, R&D, suppliers) about our confidence in our strategy. I wanted them to understand that it will not change our strategy. We know what we are doing, how we are doing it, why and at what speed we are doing it. Our vision and strategy are very clear. This is not because of certain articles that you read and certain statements from NCAP. We have trust in our strategy, our brand and product. That is the first statement.
The Datsun Go is the first product. The second product arrives in a few months. We have a third coming in a bit more than a year. So the strategy will stay.
The second statement I wish to make is regarding NCAP. Some may have thought NCAP is a very official company related to the government. I had to explain that NCAP is a UK-based company which evaluates passive safety like any other company. It doesn't have any authority to dictate to any government or private company.
The third statement I wish to make is that we have zero stars like any other competitor in that segment at that level of price. We are all zero stars. So we don't have to feel ashamed against competition. What I wanted the people to understand is this whole debate (on safety). What is most important is to avoid the accident. Once you are in a crash, it is complicated, be it a zero-, three- or five-star rated car.
The most important thing is to avoid the accident. I think this is always what we have in mind in the Nissan Group – how to avoid accidents and to have the best technology and best engineering. I can reinforce the fact that we can trust our car because when you look the braking distance, roadholding, quality of the electronic adaptive power steering (speed sensing), all are segment leading. When you look at the headlamp quality, the seat design that reduces fatigue, these are facts. At Nissan, we have spent a lot of time into building from an engineering perspective that is the best possible in this price range.
We can talk about NCAP but we need to look at the larger picture on safety. There is also what all the authorities can do. What about adherence to road regulations, ELV regulations, driving skills and road conditions? It is not a critique, but a constructive way of looking at things.
Would you look at offering safety features like ABS and airbags in the Datsun Go?
It is always a possibility because our products are always evolving, be it a Nissan or a Datsun product. The evolution will globally follow two paths. The first one is regulation. We will always follow the regulations of a country. Obviously, we are following the regulations despite what some people may feel or understand what they read. We follow 100 percent Indian regulations. Then we also look at customer behaviour, what do they expect today and in the future. We adapt ourselves to those expectations. If we feel there's a trend and which is deep, if we feel from an economical point of view it can be done, we will follow.
In my opinion, NCAP is part of the holistic situation. I am not going to focus only on NCAP results. It is a small piece of the overall environment. The environment is much bigger, it’s about Indian regulations. We are part of the industry body and we work with the industry body. It is about the Indian government also, what is their roadmap in terms of overall safety in India. Thereafter, it is about the customer, what he wants and expects.
Will the Go's structure be reinforced to make it more robust?
Our car respects the prevailing regulations in India. There's no problem with the car. Now, if there's any evolution in the regulation, we will evolve.
Has convincing customers at showrooms been a challenge?
This is why I think it's very important that we educate our sales people and our network as well. This is part of our responsibility to explain the car’s safety credentials. Perhaps, we haven't done it well enough. We say the Datsun Go is big on power, space and style. But it is big on safety (too). Probably we didn't put it ahead because we took it for granted that we make safe cars at Nissan.
Our car is very safe in this category – it is probably one of the safest today. We need to change our approach from a marketing and sales point of view, educate our people to ensure they talk about the braking distance, lighting, adaptive power steering, the ground clearance, the sitting position. Yes, we have to change our approach in terms of explaining our cars and show all the engineering content that the Nissan Group of India is putting in its cars, and especially in Datsun, because for that kind of price, the technology one gets is one of the best.
Could the G-NCAP test results impact the Go's sales performance?
I believe that each time one is in a situation that you wouldn't wish to be in, look at the positive side of it. The positive aspect is the need to do better homework, to know what was our car about and all the engineering content it has.
We have very quickly drafted a whole educational kit to explain to our sales staff what the Datsun Go is all about in terms of engineering. In the seven stated aspects of safety, we are much better than the average of the segment. The technology and engineering that is put in the car is something that we tend to forget. At the end of the line, we just look at the appearance, not what is inside. It is a classic human approach! Unfortunately, our sales consultants sometimes go very quick on the appearance but not about what is inside the car. But it is our fault because we also communicate that the Go is big on style, big on power, big on space. There's much more to say.
In a way, was this whole episode a learning experience?
I am very positive about Nissan, about India. It gives me strength and more will to succeed. We take some of these as a learning lesson and something to build on. We have taken a small hit but will keep on going, get stronger.
For the next launch, will you highlight the engineering of the product as well?
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