It is difficult not to mention Tata Motors if you are discussing passenger safety in India. The company boasts of the country’s first Global NCAP-rated 5-star car, Nexon and the Altroz followed soon. SJR Kutty, Head - Vehicle Attribute & Technical Services, ERC, Tata Motors and a part of the crash safety team behind the Nexon says “Technology can be provided but for better safety implementation adherence to regulations is important.”
Speaking at Autocar Professional’s seventh annual ‘Virtual Safer Mobility Conclave’, Kutty explained that safety is holistic and is also a mind game. It is not just about having all the technology in the car but is also about the mindset and concept of safety, “the safety concept in vehicles is slowly changing the paradigm in the Indian automotive sector. In 1998, when safety was not even discussed in the country, Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Motors, established the first crash safety lab in India.”
He pointed out that, “The trade-off between attributes and the price is not as critical for OEMs as it is for customers. The customer wants to know what he/she is paying for, in a mature market safety is common. But in India it is maturing now.” According to him, the incremental cost of the product led to customers comparing the additional value the product was offering.
Customer willingness and affordability important
For any technology/product, there are several aspects that determine its success rate – need, cost, ease of use, mandate and most importantly the willingness of the consumer to adopt it.
The Tata Motors’ veteran says that while OEMs can impart safety tech, there are some consumers who may not take to it instantly, “automakers are concerned how much of the technology are actually being adopted. That’s why OEMs need to find a balance. You have to ensure that you take people along with you.”
Often there is a premium attached to safety and in a cost-sensitive marker like India, it can be a contentious issue. Kutty believes that the best way is to have standard cars with the basic safety, and then gradually build upon that, “We are defined by our customers and we have to take responsibility for the customers. Regulations have moved, as responsible OEMs we are defining on what we can do more for our customers and bring safety technologies that luxury carmakers are offering at the cost he/she is able to afford.”
He shared the story behind making of India’s first 5-star Global NCAP car – the Nexon SUV. “We were given a target of safety cost that should be the same cost of what a family of 4-5 people would pay for an outdoor lunch. Managing costs in designing safety solutions is crucial. We all have a role to play, safety comes first, and we are actually contributing to the GDP of the country. The success of the Nexon or the Altroz is not only a success story for Tata Motors but also for all of India Auto Inc – ARAI, suppliers and the entire automotive eco-system.”
Importance of good driver training
The lack of well-trained drivers is another problem that’s plaguing the safety ecosystem in India. Kutty highlighted the Tata Group’s initiatives in this field including SKUs for driver training for more than 10 years. However, Kutty feels safe driving is also a function of implementing control on the human mind in terms of adopting safe driving practices.