Toyota Motor is set to become the first carmaker in India to voluntarily offer antilock braking system (ABS) a standard fitment in all its locally made vehicles. This move comes after it started offering airbags in all its cars since October last year.
Toyota's headquarters in Japan and its Indian unit, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, are deliberating on this and all its vehicles are expected to roll out with ABS starting 2016-17, said people with knowledge of the plans.
N Raja, director and senior vice president for sales and marketing at Toyota Kirloskar, didn't specify any timeline to implement the plan. "The new safety regulations are likely to be enforced by 2017 and further norms towards pedestrian safety are also likely to be implemented by the end of the decade. Our current initiative will not only offer a safer car to our buyers, but also give us an edge against the competition," said Raja.
Toyota's German rival Volkswagen too has made airbags a standard fitment in all its cars in India. Airbags and ABS come as standard in luxury vehicles, which though are produced overseas or are assembled from imported kits.
There has been a renewed push towards road safety in India, where some 1.4 lakh people are killed every year in road accidents, the highest in the world. In their efforts to meet demand for cheap vehicles, manufactures have often been forced to overlook safety features such as airbags and ABS, which reduces skidding. The new Bharat Safety rules that are in the making are likely to mandate side and frontal crash testing at 56 kilometers per hour in line with European rules by April of 2017.
Toyota, meanwhile, plans to test its locally produced cars using humanoid, internally called as THUMS (Total Human Model for Safety). By crash testing with humanoid, the real impact on body parts like bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and internal organs can be evaluated. The company is also designing cars keeping in mind the pedestrian safety.
Toyota globally crash tests its vehicles at 64 km per hour for both frontal and side crash. And, one of the primary objectives given to engineers is to design the vehicle in such a way that even in case of crash, the driver's door must open freely.
Raja said most customers didn't initially want to spend for airbags and preferred a music system in its place. But reports of some India-made cars failing crash tests and effort by dealers to educate customers have helped increase its acceptance significantly, he said.
With no new models in the pipeline for launch this fiscal year, Toyota is aiming to meet last year's sales of around 1.35 lakh units, which is a sizeable number for an airbag manufacturer to set up a plant here.
"Supplies are coming in, but localisation will definitely help us. Our group companies are in the process of defining the manufacturing roadmap," said Raja.