While exact numbers were unavailable, auto industry and government sources said as most buyers opt for cheaper variants even in models that come with the option of more airbags, the share of cars with more than two airbags is low.
The two-airbag feature, now standard across vehicles, also came in after the government mandated it through an order, forcing all car companies to upgrade from January this year.
India has the highest road fatalities in the world, and the government believes that equipping vehicles with more airbags will help reduce the number of lives lost on the roads. India has 1% of the global vehicle population but its share in road deaths is 11%.
Need better enforcement of safety rules: Auto industry
While the government has been pressing for more safety features in all cars, a section of the auto industry argues that the focus should also be more on issues such as better enforcement of rules regarding seat belts, curbing drunken, high-speed and wrong-lane driving to cut down fatalities, estimated at a little under 1.6 lakh in 2021.
The ministry of road transport and highways had proposed to make it mandatory to have six airbags in all cars starting October 2022, but the target is set to be missed. While the draft rules have been released amid opposition from a section of the auto industry, minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday said the plan is still in the works.
He once again questioned why some car manufacturers were resisting the safety feature, when they were exporting cars with six airbags. During the last Parliament session, Gadkari had said that the functional deployment of six airbags in cars could have saved over 13,000 lives in 2020.
Auto industry and government sources said that as most of the buyers opt for two-airbag variants even in models that come with the option of six bags, the companies are not in a hurry to add more.
Currently, Maruti, Hyundai and Tata Motors, while catering to price conscious customers, offer six airbags across some models. But when it comes to luxury, almost all the companies – including top ones such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo – already offer six airbags, and more on the bigger models, as a standard feature across their entire line-up.
Mercedes gives nine airbags in the S-Class sedan, while the Maybach has 13.