Maruti Suzuki India working on electric vehicle

Maruti Suzuki India working on electric vehicle

Kenichi Ayukawa, Chief Executive Officer of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., poses with concept Futuro-e car after it was unveiled at the India Auto Expo 2020 in Greater Noida recently. (Reuters Photo)

There has been limited news about Maruti Suzuki India Limited’s foray into electric vehicle technology. A lot of people have a keen eye on India’s largest automaker to announce plans for EVs in India. Even in general, the buzz in the country has been about the eventual shift from internal combustion engines to EVs.

Late in 2018, Maruti Suzuki had flagged off 50 EV prototypes from its Gurugram facility for field testing, with the car looking similar to the Wagon-R. At the ongoing Auto Expo 2020, the company unveiled the Futuro-e concept car. And needless to say, the coupe-style SUV concept turned out to be a stunner.

Though there are clear indications that Maruti Suzuki will bring out an EV in the Indian market, it could take time. “There will be an electric car in India in the future for sure. We have to prepare for that but first, we have to develop the technology,” said Kenichi Ayukawa, MD and CEO, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, on the sidelines of the Auto Expo in Greater Noida.

“An EV is different from petrol and diesel vehicles due to the need for charging stations. This is not only a company but a social issue,” he added.

Plus, there is another problem. “We are providing entry and middle-level cars, but not high-end products. We are developing the electric technology itself but mass production and delivery to customers is a different story,” he stated.

Instead of concentrating just on EVs, Maruti Suzuki is looking at other technologies that are cleaner than pure petrol and diesel technology. The company also announced the Mission Green Million to sell more environment-friendly vehicles.

“We have to consider the market expectations of new technologies that are environment-friendly and fuel saving. We have to develop future products. We are not about just one technology. Apart from EVs, there are also hybrid and compressed natural gas (CNG) technologies. We have to consider what we can do tomorrow because it takes time to develop EVs,” Ayukawa explained.

“We have to take quick countermeasures to improve the environment and fuel consumption issue. That is why CNG and hybrid are options. We are also looking for other alternatives. For example, if biofuel becomes available, we have to give it to the customer. If the customer is expecting something, we have to consider it,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ayukawa felt that the slowdown in the market will eventually get reversed. “We think the market will grow in the long term. It was a struggle in the short term for the industry due to various reasons. When the Bharat Stage-IV to BS-VI transition is done, I expect the industry to gradually go in a good direction. The point is of the economy of the country. If it becomes better, we can expect it to accelerate the industry from the weakness that is going on,” he said.

With no scope to expand the company’s Gurgaon plant, Ayukawa said that Maruti Suzuki has been looking at another location but nothing has been finalised yet. However, there are bigger plans for the Gujarat plant. “We already have two lines in Gujarat with a capacity of five lakh and this year. We will add a third line with a capacity of 2.5 lakh and take the total capacity to 7.5 lakh,” he said.

There is another reason to ramp up production in Gujarat. “It is also a good place for export and that is why we are developing the export business. Last year, it was maybe less than 10% share of the total volume but we are looking at something like 15 or 20% for export to African and other countries. In the last five years, the domestic market was good, and we concentrated on the domestic market. When the Gujarat plant becomes ready, we can export additionally but it also depends on the condition of the global economy,” he informed.

On Capex, Ayukawa said, “Normally, we are investing something like Rs 4,000 crore per year. Maybe we will continue something like that. Every year, we have to modify products and install new technologies.”

In reply to a question about the company’s plans for rural India, Ayukawa said: “We have to develop options. Of course, the entry-level options are there to approach the rural areas and passenger vehicles will mainly be suitable for such areas. The point is that we have to see customer expectation.

“Unfortunately, we have not yet touched the rural area so much, just about three lakh panchayats. We are trying for a programme about how to approach those areas. It is a challenge for our team as to how to deliver the products to those areas nationwide,” he added.

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