Six-airbag mandate to pose a cost hurdle only in the short term until volumes drive cost efficiencies.
With the Indian government set to mandate fitment of six airbags in all new passenger vehicle models in India, starting October 1, 2022, the industry is looking ahead at an opportunity as well as a cost challenge.
While the regulation will significantly increase the volumes for airbags and its constituent child parts like the inflator, fabric as well as airbag module, there is a significant amount of investment still required in terms of localisation of these technologies.
According to Mahendra S Rajawat, president and managing director, Joyson Anand Abhishek Safety Systems, “Higher penetration of any technology does lead to cost optimisation, and OEMs are set to benefit from the increased volumes of airbags after this policy mandate.”
“However, there are still areas which need a lot of investment. For instance, investment is required to localise airbag inflators as well as the fabric. High localisation will ensure best cost structure for the technology,” he adds.
With growing awareness of road safety among consumers, as well as a push from government regulations, OEMs are focusing on designing their new model structures to incorporate curtain airbags covering the side windows, but might still need to reengineer existing platforms to be in conformation of the upcoming mandate.
India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki has cited its concern with the upcoming regime, and has warned that it might need to exit the entry-level small car segment altogether as cars would become unaffordable for the intended audience, bringing a sharp hit on the company’s profitability.
But Rajawat, on the other hand, believes that increased safety content in vehicles will certainly pose a cost impact, it would be there only for the short term. “As we see a consistent rise in local development of new vehicles in India, I am sure there will be a way in which both OEMs as well as airbag suppliers will be able to balance out the costs in order to support the end consumer in totality,” he adds.
Localising side and curtain airbags
The company, which has an in-house ServoSled test bench for crash testing of vehicles to test airbag deployment at its Manesar facility in Haryana, is working on indigenous development and testing of products based on customer requirements.
Having partially localised both side as well as curtain airbags in India, and demonstrated its capabilities to also produce a knee airbag in the country, it is now eyeing growth in the passive safety domain and says is ready with around 30-40 percent spare capacity across its Manesar and Chennai plants to cater to the anticipated surge in volumes.
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