NEW DELHI: The government has deferred by a year its plan to require car manufacturers to provide six airbags in all passenger cars, Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday, citing global supply chain constraints.
“Safety of all passengers travelling in motor vehicles irrespective of their cost and variants is the foremost priority. Considering the global supply chain constraints being faced by the auto industry and its impact on the macroeconomic scenario, it has been decided to implement the proposal mandating a minimum of 6 Airbags in passenger cars (M-1 Category) w.e.f 01st October 2023,” Gadkari announced on Thursday.
On January 14, the government put out a draft notification that proposed a change in rules to make six airbags mandatory in M1 category vehicles manufactured after October 1, 2022. The final order notifying the change, however, was not issued.
M1 vehicle category refers to passenger cars with a maximum of eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat and includes hatchbacks, sedans, multi utility vehicles and sports utility vehicles.
As of now, two airbags are mandatory in all vehicles – one for the driver and the other for the co-passenger n the front seat. The rule for airbags for the driver’s seat was made mandatory from July 1, 2019, while the one for the co-passenger came into effect from January 1 this year.
To be sure, many Indian cars already have six airbags in their top variants priced above the ₹10-15 lakh segments. Automakers say adding six airbags will result in a minimum cost escalation of about ₹7,500 per car.
A senior transport ministry official said the primary reason for deferring the implementation of the six-airbags rule by a year was the lack of capacity to meet the sudden increase in demand for airbags.
“At present, we just have about five manufacturers who make airbags in India. Making six airbags mandatory in all cars would mean the demand could go up to about 18-20 million a year. So, we are working on opening more airbag manufacturing units in the country,” said the official requesting anonymity.
According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), India’s total passenger vehicle sales increased from 2,711,457 in 2020-21 to 3,069,499 units in 2021-22.
Road safety, particularly passenger safety, in India has come under sharp focus after the death of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and his associate Jehangir Pandole in a road accident. Both of them were on the car’s rear seats and were not wearing seat belts.
Last week, the government issued a notification to seek public comments on a plan to require car manufacturers to introduce seat belt warning beepers for rear seats as well.