Mumbai: Nissan Motor is working on strengthening the body shell of the Datsun GO hatchback using higher-grade steel and reinforcements, after a UK-based watchdog questioned the safety features of the first model the Japanese car maker launched in India under the revived Datsun brand.
The Datsun GO received zero rating in Global NCAP’s crash test. The watchdog, which said the vehicle’s structure collapsed during the test, had written to Nissan, asking it to withdraw the model because of the “grave risk” to passengers in the event of a crash. Some other small-car models from India had also failed in the test.
People with knowledge of the matter said the steel that Nissan Motor India is now using in the hatchback can withstand higher pressure – the metal has a tensile level of 520 mega pascal, compared with 320 mega pascal earlier. It is also adding side beams on both sides to enhance the strength and rigidity of the vehicle. This is apart from adding airbags and anti-lock braking system by the middle of the year.
Nissan is considering sending the new batch of vehicles to Global NCAP to review its strength shortly, these people said.
A Nissan Motor India spokeswoman didn’t confirm or deny the development. “Every product of both Nissan and Datsun are engineered keeping in mind India’s safety benchmark,” said the spokesperson.
Nissan in 2012 dusted off the Datsun brand it had shelved three decades earlier, to place it as an inexpensive option in emerging markets. In India, where the brand made its second-inning debut in February 2014, it was expected to challenge Maruti Suzuki’s Alto and Wagon R, and Hyundai Motor’s Eon, but has failed make any impact so far.
Nissan has managed to sell merely 14,000-15,000 Datsun cars in the past year. While the collapse of its marketing and distribution tie up and the weak market may have played the major roles in the dismal performance, the crash-test results too could have kept some safety-conscious prospective customers away.
David Ward, secretary general of Global NCAP told ET, that the organisation has had high level of discussion with the top management of Nissan Datsun and they were informed that the car maker is (indeed) working on a re-engineered Datsun Go.
“We certainly welcome this move, if it is true. But we haven’t received any vehicle or communication for re-assessment. It will be good to assess modified version of Datsun Go and I am hoping that post modification, Go does pass the test. Increasingly we would want all cars to meet the UN crash regulation in India and across the world.” said Ward.
The secretary general of Global NCAP also welcomed the move by Indian government to move towards safer future by introducing crash regulation that meets UN Standards.
“The car industry is one of the most globalised industry in the world, it always makes sense to have best car as a minimum standard, instead of offering a car of one standard for one market and of another standard for another market,” added Ward.
Gaurav Vangaal, sr analyst, forecasting at IHS Automotive says the issue (Go failing crash testing) did raise attention of the international community immediately and put India in a different light.
“Indian market is still to mature, entry level buyers consider safety as a luxury feature, if a similar issue would have come to light in global markets, it would have hurt the future brand prospects. A quick action by Nissan will help Datsun brand in India, as they have a pipeline in place. There is potential for the brand in India, but it is one uphill task for Nissan,” added Vangaal.
Interestingly, its Sub-Go vehicle (RediGo), which is in pipeline is being developed with a stronger steel and better rigidity.