Maruti Suzuki sees more challenges for its e-car drive

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on August 20, 2018 Published on August 20, 2018

RS Kalsi (right), Maruti Suzuki India Senior Executive Director (Marketing and Sales), with CV Raman, Executive Director (Engineering), during the launch of the new ‘Ciaz’ in Bengaluru on Monday   -  PTI

To develop its own battery plant; rules out swapping tech

The country’s largest passenger car maker Maruti Suzuki has said that there will be a series of challenges when the company launches its first electric car in the country by 2020 but it ruled out using the battery-swapping technology to power them.

Maruti Suzuki senior executive director, engineering, CV Raman, told BusinessLine that the company will develop its own lithium-ion battery packs, set up its own battery plant, identify suppliers and “only then we will be able to take a definite solution to our customers.” The carmaker has set up a joint venture with Toshiba and Denso to produce lithium-ion batteries for the domestic market and will together invest ₹1,151 crore into the venture.

He said customers’ acceptance for an electric car will be the key to its success as the country still lacks in the necessary infrastructure needed for charging and the pricing itself as it is expected to be at least two to three times than the existing price for gasoline engine-powered cars. “While we are committed to launching electric cars by 2020, our study shows that most of the households do not even have parking facilities. Therefore, acceptance will be a challenge,” Raman said.

Maruti Suzuki has already launched hybrid cars and will eventually move towards launching electric cars first by fitting them with smaller battery packs and then with bigger ones which could give higher mileage. The carmaker has also undertaken a study on the number of electric cars they market can accept by 2020.

He said only about 20-30 per cent of the entire car population will be electric by 2030, the year set as a target by the NITI Ayog but the rest of them will be a combination of hybrids and gasoline-powered cars. He pointed out that the fuel efficiency of their petrol cars has actually gone by about 50 per cent to about 24 km per litre during the last decade and are expected to become more fuel efficient as the engine technology becomes better.

The company’s senior executive director for marketing and sales RS Kalsi said over a period of time, the rural-urban divide over preference for style and technology for cars has diminished. “A decade ago, we could tell you which car models will sell the most in the rural areas but now even a premium sedan model such as Ciaz can sell well in those markets,” he said. At present, about one-third of the total car sales for Maruti Suzuki comes from the rural sector.

Ciaz upgraded

Kalsi was speaking at the sidelines of the launch of the upgraded version of the next generation hybrid Ciaz with a new 1.5 litre petrol engine and lithium-ion battery pack. The older version of the car sells 60,000 units per year.

He also said that a number of people were buying premium cars. “No company can ignore the customer aspirations and changing market trends. Premiumisation in the market is happening at a faster pace,” he said.

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Published on August 20, 2018
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