Automotive safety: Crashing times

We have raised the issue of automotive safety before (see Automotive safety: Fire in the air) and have raised the issue of of automotive companies  approach towards CSR (see here and here).

The CSR reports we studied mention Product Safety as a key focus area. And indeed it must be so as the prime purpose of automotive companies is to provide safe transportation.
Soare enough safety measures taken to prevent such tragedies?

A recent report in the media suggests that automotive companies need to do far more to provide even basic safety for customers.  A study by global car safety watchdog, Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) in association with Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) and World Bank found that four out of five popular small cars  have failed crash tests (see here) at 56 kmph -based on UN standards. Even when the manufacturers claimed that they were meeting Indian norms.

This raises several questions:

1. Product safety is core to the product especially in automobiles where lives are at stake. Whether a particular standard is met should be immaterial. Can automotive companies do more to ensure passenger safety?

2. Not just product safety but also road safety is critical. Here again we find that there is a lack strategic focus. Small irregular activities which are undertaken don’t really have long term impact. What can be done to build a ground level, long term change?

3. Doing is not enough – it needs to be communicated as well. How can consumer / society level involvement be built through cut through communication?

4. Intent and action needs to merge. TV commercials that promote unsafe driving abound. For example:

* Two wheelers can drive over pavements, jump over street vendors and demonstrate stunts on busy roads

* Cars specially SUV’s must be taken into pristine forests and lakes while disturbing animal habitat

* Celebrities are shown conducting car chases that clearly break all rules

This clearly seems to contradict the fundamental ethos of social responsibility and sustainability. To address an issue of this magnitude how can all company touchpoints – people, process, communication and customers speak the same language?

Where do automotive companies stand vis-à-vis customer/road safety? Simple innovative solutions plus strategic thinking is the need of the hour.

Article coauthored with Utkarsh Majmudar and originally published in Economic Times.

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