‘We will bring more hybrid cars to India’

‘We will bring more hybrid cars to India’

In conversation: Shekar Viswanathan, Vice Chairman and Whole-time Director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor

Shekar Viswanathan, Vice Chairman and Whole-time Director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor

Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp’s Indian subsidiary Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) recently launched its fourth-gen Camry Hybrid in India as part of its push towards eco-friendly transport solutions. In a short span of time, the company has received an overwhelming response for the car with over 400 bookings. The company’s Vice Chairman and Whole-time Director Shekar Viswanathan (In picture) explains the company’s strategy going forwardf for hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs), as well as introduction of cars compliant with BS-VI emissions standards in India to Mahesh Kulkarni of DH. Excerpts:

Camry Hybrid is the fourth-generation of Camry launched by Toyota in India. How has been the response?

The response has been very good because of the technology. Hybrid is the pathway to pure EV technology and our customers recognise that. However, the high rate of GST is preventing volumes. Currently, Camry Hybrid attracts 43% GST. Camry Hybrid has an auxiliary source of energy that comes from gasoline. The fuel efficiency is more than a conventional petrol engine. Being a self-charging EV, it meets the demand for cleaner vehicular emissions. Camry Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine that puts out 178hp and 221Nm of torque.

Carmakers are announcing plans for EVs. Why Toyota is silent on launching EVs in India?

Many automakers announcing huge plans because they are bound by their investors. But actually, nothing much is happening on the ground. Even in the US, EV is not a primary car. It is a second or a third car in the family. In India, Toyota is waiting because of lack of infrastructure such as charging stations.

We don’t believe the consumer will take to electric the way he took to gasoline or diesel. What we truly believe is that there will be certain percentage of population that will move to EVs by 2030 because their lifestyle will dictate them to do so. I think, it will be 20% of the population that will shift to EVs by 2030. For upper crust of the society it will be a style statement to have an EV and it will have a limited use such as going to a mandir (temple) in the evening or go for shopping within a limited radius from where they live.

It takes time to build the infrastructure. I have been going around apartment complexes and asking for charging facility. The apartment associations are not ready to give space for charging. We need a proper legislation in the country to move towards electric.

Why the government is not bringing an EV policy?

It is difficult to enforce on consumers to use EVs. The government must remain technology agnostic. Individual companies should decide what they want to do. Some want to sell only gasoline and diesel vehicles. Some say they will sell only an EV or hybrid, hydrogen or a fuel cell vehicle. They know best what they want to do. The government can’t afford to bet on one technology.

You mean to say EV adoption will happen only after 2030?

Before 2030, about 10% of the vehicle users will migrate to EVs because of the lower GST rate (12%) on EVs. If you replace all current vehicles with EVs, imagine the loss of tax revenue to the government. You can’t increase the rate of tax for the consumers suddenly. The consumer will not accept any tax hike or price hike. The government will lose out heavily if everybody switches over to electric. They will not do it. The state governments will lose heavily.

When will Toyota launch an EV in India?

We already have an EV, which is called EQ and we are using it internally in our factory (at Bidadi near Bengaluru). But we are not yet ready to launch it in the market. Our study tells, if there is no infrastructure to charge, the consumer will blame the manufacturer. They will say, who asked you (Toyota) to sell this vehicle?

Toyota sells in 170 countries worldwide. We have the best of electric car technology. It is a matter of supply chain for motors and other spare parts. How will you prevent stock out? The worst thing for a consumer is when there is no spare part available in times of break-down.

What about a small hybrid car for

With this level of taxation, we are not inclined to bring smaller hybrid car immediately. But we will certainly bring more hybrid cars to India and that is the most sensible thing to do. We don’t see diesel or gasoline going away immediately. Still 80% of the population prefers conventional fuel option. At least for the next 20 years they will be there. The government must appreciate that with BS-VI vehicles hitting the roads next year, Sulphur content will drop considerably.

What is Toyota’s preparedness to launch cars compliant with BS-VI emission standards?

As far as Toyota is concerned, we will be good and ready by the time BS-VI fuels are introduced. What we are hoping for is the government will actively announce the plan for all the cities. I think there will be a phased introduction of BS-VI fuels and that should not take more than three months.

Toyota is all set to upgrade our entire range of products to BS-VI well before the deadline of April 1, 2020. When we set up our diesel engine plant in Jigani (2016), we had taken note of BS-VI engine and fuel available. We have made that plant future ready.

With all the components required to manufacture engines compatible with BS-VI fuel. A very little incremental changes are required for us to start making BS-VI engines. All our models will have BS-VI fuel option from the day one. In fact, we are ready to roll out our products by the third quarter of next financial year.

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