Mumbai: Ex-MHADA chief drags Mercedes to court over airbags

Feb 06, 2015, 06:20 IST | Shashank Rao

Prasad Lad has filed a case against the German giant in the consumer court, after the Rs 38-lakh car’s airbags failed to open in an accident involving his son

A former MHADA chairman has dragged German giant Mercedes-Benz to court, after their vehicle’s airbags failed to deploy when the car was involved in an accident last year.

Prasad Lad had bought this Mercedes-Benz C class 220 in December 2012 for Rs 38 lakh
Prasad Lad had bought this Mercedes-Benz C class 220 in December 2012 for Rs 38 lakh

The former chairman of MHADA’s repair and reconstruction board, Prasad Lad, has approached the state Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission claiming damages for having been sold a ‘defective’ car.

The Lads had bought a Mercedes-Benz C Class 220 in December 2012 for Rs 38 lakh. In July last year, when their son, Shubham, was driving the vehicle, it met with an accident near a turn in Churchgate.

The luxury vehicle rammed into a divider, which damaged the lower front portion severely. The impact was such that the bumper came apart, the headlights were broken and the left side of the bonnet was pushed up, exposing the engine. However, the airbags still didn’t deploy.

“My son was driving the vehicle when the accident took place. Shockingly the airbags did not open, but thankfully he didn’t suffer any injuries,” said Prasad Lad. The family claimed they also took the opinion of a Pune-based surveyor, who deemed in his report (copy with mid-day) that the airbags ought to have deployed.

No response
Soon after the accident, the family sent emails to the company, mentioning that although no injury had been caused to the driver or passenger, non-deployment of airbags is a major malfunction. The authorised service centre of the company provided an estimate of repair cost at Rs 24.60 lakh.

In an inspection in September, it was claimed that the vehicle had suffered deformation in the lower frontal area and none of the vital members of the vehicle had been hit in longitudinal or lateral direction. In an email reply, the authorised dealer said airbags are deployed only when there is a severe frontal collision.

“An indication that a vehicle has suffered a severe frontal collision is when the force of the frontal impact has consumed the crumpled zone of the vehicle and created direct longitudinal deformation in the stiff longitudinal front members and in this case the longitudinal members were not deformed at all.

Accordingly, we confirm that there was no requirement for any of the vehicles’ airbags to activate in the entire accident sequence,” it read. “The airbags installed in the vehicle were faulty and as such the car sold to us was a defective one,” alleged Neeta Lad.

However, the family said they didn’t receive any favourable response. They got the car repaired from a local mechanic and, later, sold it off for Rs 14.5 lakh. They also received a partial reimbursement for the damages through the insurance company.

The family had also spent Rs 50,000 on parking the vehicle in a garage. They then decided to approach the consumer court to claim damages of Rs 50 lakh for having been sold an allegedly defective vehicle. “It is shocking that the airbags didn’t open.

The accident could have been fatal and life-threatening to the driver and passengers,” stated the complaint filed with the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in January. “I have sent several emails to Mercedes-Benz asking for the exact cause behind the airbags not deploying.

Despite being such a big name, they haven’t replied. Hence, I decided to approach the court,” Prasad told mid-day. The central government is currently working on a Draft Road Transport and Safety Bill that will look after all aspects of road accidents and fines related to breach of rules.

Sources claimed airbags hardly cost around Rs 3,000, and are not included in the basic model of every vehicle. But automobile manufacturers increase the price of a vehicle by more than Rs 30,000 if a buyer chooses a model with airbags.

The other side
Replying to mid-day’s queries on the incident, officials from Mercedes-Benz said they wouldn’t be able to comment on the matter, since it is sub-judice.

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