6 airbags rule deferred to 1st October 2023

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Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has taken to social media outlet Twitter to announce that the rule making 6 airbags compulsory in all passenger cars sold in India has been deferred to the 1st of October 2023. The deferment is for a full year, and the minister has added that it’s due to supply chain constraints.

Here’s what he tweeted,

Currently, driver and passenger airbags, ABS+EBD, reverse parking sensors, seat belt alarms for the front seats and speed alerts are mandatory in all passenger cars sold in India. India is also evolving a new crash testing protocol called Bharat NCAP, which is expected to replace the current model, and make cars sold here a lot safer. Adding 6 airbags is a welcome step in this direction.

Supply chain issues

If the 6 airbag rule were to be implemented today, India would need about 18 million airbags that will go into cars sold here. Currently, capacity exists for only 6 million airbags, and there’s a shortfall of 12 million airbags. The auto industry needs more time to develop the capacity for outfitting cars with additional airbags. The 6 airbag rule was first mooted in January 2022, and a draft notification for the same was issued, which set a 1st October 2022 deadline for all cars sold in India to be equipped with 6 airbags. Over the past 9 odd months, many car in India have already been offered with 6 airbags as standard. An example is the Kia Seltos, which now gets 6 airbags across the range. In the coming months, expect more car makers to outfit their vehicles with 6 airbags as standard.

Meanwhile, here are auto industry voices explaining why the 6 airbag mandate needs more time to be implemented:

The six-month timeframe within which the ministry has to legislate a notification has technically elapsed. Hence, we are essentially looking at reissuance of the notification. We don’t even have a capacity of six million units right now. The new guidelines call for a significant expansion of capacities as well as localisation of airbags and their associated parts as a lot of components are currently being imported. It is impossible to cater to this demand explosion within a short timeframe, despite component makers’ willingness to invest into more capacities as per customer demand. The government had allowed almost two years of time for the mandatory implementation of dual airbags in cars. But this time around, it’s a much more critical implementation and we will definitely need more time. This is more of a lead-time issue than [airbag] cost. 

While some industry veterans including Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava have expressed concerns over the 6 airbags rule making entry level cars unaffordable, Transport Minister Gadkari has countered that every additional airbag would cost just Rs. 500, and that four additional airbags that need to be added to confirm to the 6 airbag mandate could cost automakers less than Rs. 3,000.

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