David Ward: ‘The pace of progress in India and the transition is huge.’

by Sumantra B Barooah 22 Jan 2020

David Ward, CEO and president of Global NCAP, says that the pace of turnaround in the Indian automobile industry is one of the biggest globally and the fact that Indian companies are leading the charge is a true tribute to the idea of ‘Make in India”. In an exclusive interview with Autocar Professional’s Sumantra B Barooah, he charts out the progress of the #SaferCarsForIndia project over the past 5-6 years.  

The series of latest results that we have seen – Altroz, XUV 300, Tata Tiago and Tigor – at a broad level what do these results indicate?
We are seeing five-star cars as almost normal practice. That is unusual even when you compare from last year. It is setting a whole new benchmark that has been accomplished for safety for the whole industry here in India. It is a tremendous achievement where you see two major Indian brands competing like this for such good five-star ratings.

Today’s four-star is also a big achievement, it is significantly better than a regulatory minimum. So in a way, it is throwing the challenge to other manufacturers. We are looking forward to car companies like Maruti Suzuki and others emulating this performance that we are seeing from Tatas and Mahindra.

When you started the #SaferCarsForIndia campaign in 2014, did you expect that the initiative will reach this level in just a matter of five years.   
I am really happy about the pace of the turnaround that we have seen. India, in fact, has seen one of the fastest pace of turnaround that we have seen. The government’s role in terms of regulation that has been put in place also helped. I think I expected this to happen but it happened much faster. The original expectation was that a global brand like Volkswagen will take up the cudgels but it is very satisfying to see actually two Indian brands leading the charge. It is a great tribute to the idea of ‘Make In India’. Really commendable for Indian companies.

You mentioned that this is a fastest kind of turnaround what we saw in India but it does it does remind you of any similar kind of story elsewhere in the world? And how will you rate it in terms of the market performance in comparison to other markets where you have seen such improvement in the safety quotient.
It is in many ways similar to what you have seen in Europe, more than 20 years ago, when the first Euro NCAP was launched. Very quickly you saw manufacturers like Volvo align to the safety norms. But the big change was brought about by Renault in that period, they suddenly started getting all the five stars cars, a lot like Tata now in India. The European Union also adopted safety practices with gusto, although it took a bit longer than what we saw in India now. That is by far the best comparison I can think of.

In Europe, how long did it take to reach from zero to five stars then?
The first NCAP results were released in 1997 and in 2001 we got the first five-star car. So it took a while more initially, the pace of progress but now it is very different. Last year, Euro NCAP tested 65 cars and 45 of them got five stars.

Currently, the test protocol for Euro NCAP is the most advanced in the world. That shows the big transition that NCAPs had made. Certainly the pace of progress in India and the transition is huge and where it is coming from is commendable. Compared to Europe, India had a many zero-rated cars when they started, so it is a huge leap forward.

The base when they started off was much lower in India compared to where Europe started, then?
Yes, that is right. Also people were being skeptical. I think what we saw in India is one of the biggest turnarounds that we have seen. India will be matching the performance of most of the world.

Also read: David Ward writes on ‘Road map for safer vehicles 2030’