The public has recently become quite vocal about the poor safety equipment being offered in vehicles assembled in Pakistan. Despite being priced well over Rs. 2 million, the Suzuki Swift and the Honda City lack airbags, and the airbags in numerous vehicles are often faulty.
In consideration of this situation, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had issued an order to the Engineering Development Board (EDB) to ensure that every vehicle manufactured and sold in Pakistan has functional airbags.
However, despite the directive, automakers have continued to sell several of their models without airbags, which is adding to the risk of fatal or near-fatal accidents.
A morning show had invited the CEO of the Toyota Indus Motor Company (IMC) and Chairman of the Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers’ Association (PAMA), Ali Asghar Jamali, as a guest, and quizzed him with numerous hard-hitting questions that are often asked by car buyers.
Here is what the discussion had entailed:
How Many Cars in Pakistan Have Airbags?
Jamali responded that Toyota IMC’s entire car lineup features dual airbags, 80 percent of the cars in Honda Atlas lineup have airbags, and 50 percent of the Pak Suzuki Motor Company (PSMC) lineup has airbags.
His next question was whether cars for under Rs. 1.5 million have airbags, to which he replied that some in the 800 cc and below segment do not have the feature.
He was then asked if the cars worth over Rs. 2 million in Pakistan all have airbags, to which he replied “yes there are airbags in cars on that price point. You find an airbag in Suzuki Swift.”
The Suzuki Swift, and the Honda City, both of which are assembled in Pakistan and cost well over Rs. 2 million, do not have any airbags. They both are two generations old vehicles that are still being sold in Pakistan as brand new, and have not had any improvements over the past decade but have had an increase of about 70 to 90 percent in their prices over the last ten years.
Why Airbags Don’t Work?
Jamali explained that front airbags must have a frontal collision to work, as is also mentioned in the owner’s manual, and that the sensors for the front airbags are located in the front bumpers.
He remarked that news outlets usually only report about the airbags that do not work while there are thousands of unreported cases of them being functional, which has provided the public with this perception.
He added that all these systems are imported and that they are all of the same quality, which is why local car makers should not be blamed for the malfunctioning of the airbags.
Jamali clarified that the LHC had only instructed the government of Pakistan to develop legislation for the installation of airbags in cars. To date, no law that mandates automakers to install airbags in cars exists in the country, which why a lot of the carmakers do not install them.
“After the installation of airbags, the prices of the vehicles would definitely go up, but please note that installation of airbags in every vehicle on such short notice is impossible,” Jamali said.
“The airbag systems are imported from abroad, hence, in order for the automakers to make that change, some time would be required before the law is passed,” he added.
Most automakers, including Toyota IMC, Honda Atlas, and PSMC had announced multiple price hikes last year without making many improvements to the product lineup. Toyota IMC had not even announced the new Yaris last year, but the car has gotten price hikes since its launch.
Ali Asghar Jamali has hinted that more price hikes are expected, and added that the installation of airbags in all the vehicles in Pakistan “is not possible on such short notice”.
This does not bode well for the local car industry as the public is already concerned about the quality of products and is fed up with the price hikes.
Ironically, despite these observations, PAMA seems to have no interest in catering to the needs of the people and the betterment of the auto industry.