Maruti Suzuki To Continue Focusing On CNG; Could launch Vitara Brezza CNG
Maruti Suzuki will continue to focus on CNG fuel option instead of launching an EV in India anytime soon. The carmaker will launch several new CNG models and could even introduce Vitara Brezza CNG.
The growing environmental concerns and alarming level of pollution in the country have pushed several carmakers in India to make electric cars. A few mass-market brands like Hyundai and Tata Motors have already joined the bandwagon while Mahindra will join the list soon. However, India’s largest carmaker — Maruti Suzuki — is not keen on adding electric cars anytime soon. Instead, the company wants to focus on CNG and hybrid technology till the time more affordable EV technology isn’t available. While talking to Times Drive, Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Director, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, said that many carmakers in the country have introduced electric vehicles to demonstrate cleaner technologies but such companies are selling EVs in very small numbers while diesel vehicles still rack up a substantial chunk of sales. This, according to him, offsets the benefit of selling EVs in the country. Instead, it is important to look at cleaner fuels like CNG for as long as the cost of EV technology doesn’t come down. This is why the Indian carmaker is investing more in CNG vehicles instead of introducing an EV. The company does plan to jump on the EV bandwagon but at a stage when electric cars are economically viable.
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He pointed out that Maruti Suzuki sold 1,58,000 CNG cars in India last year as opposed to 1,06,000 CNG cars in 2019. This is despite the fact that the automobile industry on the whole witnessed a severe sales slump. Shashank Srivastava attributed the surge in CNG car sales to factors like the increasing prices of petrol and diesel in India that make CNG a very economic option. And let’s not ignore the fact that CNG vehicles are more fuel-efficient and environmental-friendly as compared to petrol and diesel vehicles. This is why the company sees a large market for CNG cars in India and will focus on catering to that demand. Maruti Suzuki currently has 8 CNG vehicles in its passenger vehicle portfolio but intends to increase the lineup with more CNG vehicles. This means that we could see a CNG version of cars like Ciaz and ever Maruti Suzuki Brezza. This should not be difficult for the brand considering that it already has a CNG powertrain available with the 1.5-litre petrol engine on Ertiga. The same technology can be used on Brezza as well. However, how soon the Brezza with CNG goes on sale in India depends on factors like price competitiveness and market demand.
Shashank Srivastava added that a major reason for the increase in demand for CNG cars in India is the widescale availability of cleaner fuel. He mentioned that India currently has over 3,500 CNG stations in over 300 cities of the country. This has pushed more people towards CNG cars instead of diesel and conventional petrol vehicles.
A few months ago there were rumours that Maruti Suzuki could go back to selling diesel vehicles. To this, Shashank Srivastava responded by saying that the carmaker could consider developing a clean diesel engine only if there is a significant market for such vehicles. However, based on the existing statistics, the market seems to be shifting towards petrol vehicles. The share of diesel cars in the hatchback segment was less than 0.2 per cent last year while that in the case of sedans was around 6 per cent. The only segment where diesel cars had a notable share was the compact and full-size SUV category where diesel accounted for 24 per cent of the sales. But as far as Maruti Suzuki’s lineup is concerned, it is largely based on smaller engines and diesel is definitely not a viable option for the company. In a nutshell, we will get to see more CNG brands from Maruti Suzuki in future and diesel engine is currently nowhere on the horizon for the company.