In a move that will help make cars sold in India a lot safer, the government has made a front passenger airbag mandatory for all cars on sale. A tweet issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) late Friday confirmed the deadline for mandatory fitment of a front passenger airbag for new vehicles is 1 April 2021, while existing models will need to be offered with dual front airbags as standard starting 31 August 2021.
In 2019, MoRTH rang in vital changes, paving the way for the introduction of key safety features for two- and four-wheelers. It was then that an airbag was made mandatory for all passenger vehicles; an important feature, which, previously considered a luxury, found a spot on the features list of even the most affordable of models on sale in our market.
A loophole in the new regulations specified under the automotive industry standards (AIS) meant a handful of manufacturers – who have models in the budget hatchback segment – opted to offer only a driver-side airbag as standard, with the passenger-side airbag offered as an option on a higher, more expensive variant. However, this will no longer be the case, as all cars on sale in India will need to have dual front airbags, regardless of the segment or price bracket they are in.
For a long time now, dual-front airbags have been available as standard on most high-end vehicles. However, some low-cost models still do not have a standard front-passenger airbag, as their makers try to keep their prices accessible at a time when input costs are only heading north. Entry-level variants of the Maruti Suzuki Alto, S-Presso, Celerio, and even the Wagon R come with just a driver airbag as standard (a co-driver airbag is an added cost option), while the Eeco people- and cargo-mover doesn’t have a front passenger airbag option at all.
Entry-level variants of the Renault Kwid only come with a driver-side airbag – a co-driver airbag is available as an option from the RTX variant onwards. The Datsun Redigo, too, gets only a driver-side airbag as standard. Another car that misses out on a standard front passenger airbag is the Hyundai Santro, which only offers the higher-spec variants. The trusty Mahindra Bolero, too, gets just a driver-side airbag.
A front passenger airbag being added will result in a Rs 5,000-8,000 increase in the aforementioned vehicles’ starting prices. It certainly will be a notable rise in price for buyers on a tight budget. Still, it’s important to highlight that a front passenger airbag could make all the difference in case of a road accident, protecting the front passenger from life-changing injuries or death.