Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. has found that buyers will swiftly opt for increased safety even if they pay more to make sure they could one day survive the world’s deadliest roads.
Automakers have been unwilling for years to introduce airbags as standard options on car models sold in India, as they were worried the increased price would lower deliveries – but just eight months after Japan’s Toyota opted to offer the safety technology on all models sold locally, the sales have jumped. Toyota’s deliveries surged 19 percent for the period, while the overall auto sales increased by 5 percent. “It’s been better than we expected,” comments N. Raja, senior vice president and director for sales and marketing at the Japanese carmaker’s Indian operations. “Even in smaller cities and towns, people are coming to realize the need for safety features.” While having just one percent of the globe’s motor vehicles, India jumps to 15 percent of the planet’s traffic fatalities.
And even faced with the compelling and grim statistics, the government has not taken action to make airbags compulsory or even ask for vehicle crash testing. According to J.D. Power and Associates, which measures customer satisfaction, north of 80 percent of car buyers in India said they wanted cars equipped with anti-locking brakes and 76 percent wanted airbags. Even the lawmakers are catching up to the trend, with a road ministry presentation on a proposed new transportation safety bill claiming that tougher safety standards on Indian roads might lift the economy by four percent.