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As we are inching closer towards government’s upcoming rule to compulsorily fix 6 airbags on all cars, the country’s largest manufacturer Maruti Suzuki wants government to reconsider its decision. The car maker says such a move would cripple the small car segments.

For starters, central government is just about to bring in a new rule wherein all passenger cars with seats for 8 passengers or less should mandatorily have 6 airbags.

The rule will be enforced starting from 1 October post which no car with less than the said number of airbags can be registered, same as how BS IV vehicles were banned from getting registered after BS VI enforcement.

Though OEMs gave stiff resistance ever since the news surfaced, government cleared the air in April stating that the rule will be enforced at any cost. At that time, officials even said safety is non-negotiable.

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Government also said cars with airbags and seat belts would have saved the lives of at least one-third of the 39,000 people who lost their lives in road accidents recorded in 2020 due to head-on and side collisions.

Now with less than 4 months remaining for the rule to go live, Maruti Suzuki has given its stiffest resistance yet again. The company has said the norm will adversely hit the already shrinking small car market and may even impact jobs in the auto sector going ahead.

It opined that the regulation would heavily deter the cost-sensitive entry-level car buyers who are planning to upgrade to a car from a 2-wheeler.

The manufacturer noted that small car sales continue to dwindle over the last 3 years due to various regulations. The car marker was referring to the mandatory 3-years insurance, dual airbags, and BS VI transition that came into force in the recent past.

Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava has said, owing to regulations piling 1 after another, the sales of small cars have been impacted especially in the non-metro markets across the country. “If 6 airbags become mandatory, it will further shrink the small car industry,” he noted.

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According to him, such prolonged low sales will adversely affect the manufacturing sector which is 1 of the main creators of employment with its ecosystem consisting of drivers, maintenance, repairs, accessories, etc.

When this rule goes live, Maruti Suzuki says, its small cars would see a price increment of up to Rs. 25,000/-, further deterring a person upgrading to a car for the first time. The manufacturer also noted that very few countries in the world have such a regulation.

Acknowledging that airbags do save lives, Bhargava pinpointed that customers get the benefit only if they able to afford a 6-airbag car. If the cost increase forces them to continue on with their 2-wheelers, it works the opposite, he noted.

The Chairman added, “Driving a 2-wheeler is any day more unsafe than driving a car. So, overall fatalities due to car accidents may come down whereas the chances of fatalities with respect to 2-wheeler may go up.”