Automotive Companies – The Advertising and CSR Difference

Each time I feel the pain, I am reminded of an episode ten years back that has never been recorded as a statistic. The driver who accelerates sharply, swerves, breaks a light is a common enough sight in our cities.

What is not recorded often enough are the ’small incidents’ where someone is injured. They are advised rest for a few days or weeks and apparently life can go back to normal. Frankly, for a lot of people it never does. Something does change and those changes manifest themselves even more as the person gets older.
There is enough that has been said and written about the lack of infrastructure on our roads, bad designs and so on. I want to take this opportunity to highlight the role of automotive companies in this entire saga. After all, a vehicle is involved in such an episode. The darker ones make it to national news and headlines but most such episodes are not even recorded.
The first step in understanding what the automotive company talks about in safety is obvious. They talk about the safety features built in their cars. It is more a defensive measure, in the event of an episode, that assures vehicle occupants how they can expect safety. There are a large number of occupants of these vehicles who are responsible for such episodes due to actions that can at best be considered aggressive.

To better understand this, we started a study to see if there is any work being done by companies to promote safety practices. The corporate social responsibility study is at an early stage, and we have completed scanning the websites of thirty one car companies. After the initial web assessment, I plan to reach out to all car companies and understand their perspective on this issue. Even at this stage, there are some clear pointers that I would like to highlight.

Initiatives vary from company to company, and in almost all cases it seems they are implemented in areas where the company has a presence in the form of a manufacturing unit, office etc. Twenty-three companies have outlined corporate social responsibility initiatives and these have, for the moment, been summarised as follows:

  • Rural Development
  • Health care
  • Education
  • Community Development
  • Vocational Training
  • Environment
  • Women Empowerment
  • Road Safety
  • Traffic related activities
  • Safety or Training Related

Company Initiatives

Automotive companies and Safety Initiatives

Eleven companies have worked on road safety, traffic-related activities, etc., and of these five companies have initiated activities in India. Some of the pointers are global examples sourced from websites and need ratification and detailing.


Nissan focuses on traffic safety education and have worked mostly in Korea, China and Middle East. The following is an overview.

  • Hello Safety ““ This campaign reaches out to children and their guardians, senior citizens and uses picture cards to communicate the ”proper use of seatbelts and child safety seats in all seats of the vehicle,“ ”traffic safety education to raise awareness of dangers in daily life and ways to avoid them“ and ”eradicating drunk driving.“
  • ”Be Safe with Nissan“ – Nissan Middle East FZE produced a booklet to help children learn about safety on the road in a fun engaging manner. There is a website for this programme.
  • Safe Driving Forum ““ A program to improve drivers’ skills and safety awareness, in cooperation with the China Road Traffic Safety Association. Programmes on learning braking, cornering and other driving techniques from qualified instructors, contributing to deeper understanding of traffic safety. Programs for eco-driving skills were also included.


Toyota has been actively engaged in traffic safety activities which includes safe-driving courses for drivers and traffic safety education for children.

The company has also worked to increase safety awareness of everyone using streets and roadways, including drivers, passengers and pedestrians.Some of their recent activities in Japan are ”Traffic Safety for the Elderly,“ ”Let’s Make Bicycle Safety Maps!“, ”Traffic-Safety Web Site for Kids,“ ”Safety School for Parents and Children“ and Toyota Driver Communication.

  • In India Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) has initiated theToyota Safety Education Program (TSEP) to educate children on basic road safety procedures and to create a sense of road safety amongst children aged between 6 and 12. The program was held in Bangalore, where TKM is located, and spread to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. 103,447 school children had participated.
  • Let’s Make Bicycle Safety Maps! – Toyota produced the Internet program”Let’s Make a Bicycle Safety Map“ for students in the upper grades of elementary school, with the aim of”reducing bicycle accidents.“With use of both a program on the Kodomobilita Web site and Google Maps (a web mapping service), students create a safety map of the local area by marking places that they felt were dangerous for cyclists or where the students had themselves felt unsafe. The aim is for the participants to gain a better awareness of traffic safety through discussion and information sharing.
  • Traffic Safety for the Elderly ““ Approximately 800,000 copies of an educational leaflet were distributed to customers who visited dealers nationwide.
  • Driver Communication ““ This program was aimed at reducing the number of driver errors At the Toyota Education center drivers learn and safely experience the performance of vehicles at their limits through such exercises as high-speed emergency braking and driving and braking on a slick road surface.


As part of their Social Projects, BMW group focuses on Traffic Safety and activities include ”Children in Traffic,“ ”Safe on the Street,“ ”School Route Maps for Primary School Children,“ ”Safely to School,“ ”Schools Environmental Education Development,“ ”BMW Welt Junior Campus,“ ”Educational Museum Program at the BMW Museum“ and ”Traffic Safety Education Programme.“ The projects were implemented in Mexico, Argentina, China, UK and there are brochures for these activities.

  • School Route Maps ““ Together with the Traffic Safety and District Administration Department of the City of Munich, the BMW Group devised a ”School Route Maps“ campaign. Partners included, parent-teacher associations, accident insurance companies and the police. As part of the campaign, all first-year pupils are given a school route map to get them safely to school and home again. The maps show particular danger points and recommendations for a safe, accident-free walk to school, all individually tailored to the child.
  • Safely to School ““ The idea of the project was to accompany groups of up to eight first and second year pupils on their route to school and to familiarise them with the traffic. The children get to take turns to be ”Jim Knopf“ and lead the group under the supervision of an adult. Jim Knopf is the hero in a series of German children’s books.
  • Children and Traffic ““ Traffic Education in the Paediatric Practice ““ Children rely on adults as role models to provide guidance and support in road traffic situations. Paediatricians can play a very useful role here. The folder entitled ”Children and Traffic“ contains important information on developing a healthy road sense for those working in child medicine. The materials also support the accident prevention work carried out by parents. The traffic awareness folder has also proven to be an effective tool for teachers and teaching assistants.
  • ”Safe on the Street“ Online Website ““ BMW Group UK has developed a traffic safety programme in association with education experts, for use with children aged between 7 and 11. It also received the International Visual Communications (IVCA) Gold Award in 2003 for being particularly user-friendly (especially for disabled users) and for its innovative design.
  • Traffic School for Children – A traffic school for children between the ages of two and six is regularly held at BMW Welt in Munich. They are taught the basic rules and potential risks of road traffic. The children can then turn their theoretical knowledge into practice on a special bike course. This teaches the children that it not only makes sense to stick to the traffic rules, but that it can be fun too. At the end of the course, each child taking part receives their own junior driving licence.

Maruti Suzuki 

Maruti Suzuki’s Road Safety initiatives include ”Training in Safe Driving,“ ”Road Safety Awareness Among School Children,“ ”Institutes of Driving and Traffic Research (IDTR)“ and ”Maruti Driving Schools“ (MDS).

PSA Peugeot Citroën

PSA Peugeot Citroën work is focused on Road Safety & Urban Mobility. As part of urban mobility focus is on smoother traffic flows, maintaining quality of life in city and promoting access to mobility.

  • Road safety initiatives such as enhancing vehicle performance to avoid accidents (primary safety), continuing work to protect vehicle occupants and pedestrians in the event of impact (secondary safety), deploying the emergency call system (alert and call-out of emergency services).
  • Promoting better behavior behind the wheel, contributing to improving interaction between the vehicle and infrastructure to limit accidents and their consequences. Road safety campaigns were carried out in China and Latin America.

Hyundai Motors

Hyundai Motors has two initiatives, Traffic Squad and Hyundai Driving Schools.

  • Traffic Squad: Students Traffic Volunteer Scholarship Scheme is an initiative by HMIF to sponsor the “˜economically backward’ college students and also help in managing traffic better. A group of carefully chosen students, after proper training by the local traffic police, work as traffic marshals at busy intersections in conjunction with the traffic police to control and manage traffic. This is running in the cities of New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.


Renault as part of Road Safety initiative has undertaken initiatives such as ”Promoting safety with Renault’s expert knowledge,“ ”Renault Mobility Policy to prevent, correct, protect and inform,“ ”Expert knowledge of accident analysis and road safety deployed worldwide“ and E-Safety: Europe’s drive for road safety.


As part of Environment, Ford India had undertaken initiative of Education on Road Safety in Chennai, India. Ford International also has initiatives such as ”The Ford Driving Skills for Life program“ in USA which is focused on educating school children on road safety.

Ashok Leyland

The company has started Truck Driver Training Center in Tamil Nadu, India. The curriculum focuses on the road and off the road aspects, over 1 lakh drivers have been trained so far under various courses. They have set up a Driver Training Institute in Burari“š near Delhi“š in partnership with the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Hero Honda

Hero Honda seems to be the only two wheeler company which has initiatives on Road Safety. Their programme ”BE A HERO HONDA GOOD RIDER“ focuses on Bike Education, Road safety, Driving Skills, Health & Environment and Social responsibility etc. All these programs have a list of Do’s and Don’ts in common/uncommon situations. They also have a product information safety module which gives information on various bike parts.


CEAT does not have CSR information on their site. They have initiated ”Be Idiot Safe“ programme. There is a separate website dedicated to this . The website features information on people who violate traffic and safety rules. The website also features real life traffic and safety violation examples in form of videos and pictures added by people.

What do you think of automotive advertising in India?

Advertising and communication will generally take the credit when it comes to success of a product. There are many successful products in the country in the automotive sector. So the question is can advertising and communication be responsible for some of the negative episodes of traffic in our country? I have been searching for relevant advertising guidelines for the Indian automotive industry.
For now, I do not have access to them and will be following up with the revelant industry body. I have, however, come across a presentation that details the deliberations of the Canadian companies etc. These points, taken from their presentation, are indicative and served as a guideline while viewing the ads.

Advertisements must not display a disregard for safety by depicting situations that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe or dangerous practices, or acts
Does the depiction of the performance, power or acceleration of the vehicle convey the impression that it is acceptable to exceed speed limits?
Does the depiction of a vehicle?’s handling ability involve potentially unsafe actions such as cutting in and out of traffic, excessively aggressive driving, or car chases in a residential setting?
Would it be reasonable to interpret the depicted situation as condoning or encouraging unsafe driving practices?
Does the depiction appear realistic or does it appear to be unreal as in a fantasy-like scenario that in unlikely to be copied or emulated in real life?
Does the depiction of racing and rallies, and of other competition environments, taking into consideration the advertisement as a whole including visual ( both images and text ) and audio messages convey the impression that production automobiles could be driving like racing or competition automobiles on a public roadway.
Is the advertisement encouraging or endorsing automobile use that is aggressive, violent or injurious towards other road users or that denigrates or disparages cautious behavior when using an automobile.
So how have some of the companies performed with regard to safe practices in advertising? The following highlights the number of unsafe driving ads for each company.

Here is another thought: If celebrity sells vehicles, what about unsafe driving habits?

Or perhaps this ad, where the celebrity’s stunt endangers the crowd.
Should the Advertising Standards Council of India not be taking note of this?
If you have more information on this or any other input, please do share. I will, also be adding more information on the companies listed here as well as add information on other companies.





One response to “Automotive Companies – The Advertising and CSR Difference”

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