Toyota reaffirms plans to develop compact battery EV for India with Suzuki

Murali Gopalan Tokyo | Updated on October 22, 2019

Toyota has reiterated its commitment to a joint electrification strategy with Suzuki for India following the announcement made to this effect in March.

Shigeki Terashi, Executive Vice-President and Board Member of Toyota Motor Corporation, said at a presentation here on Tuesday that the two Japanese allies would develop a compact battery electric vehicle for India. There was no timeframe indicated for its launch though the industry grapevine suggests that it will happen in the short-term.

Maruti Suzuki, incidentally, is working on an electric version of the Wagon R though nothing much is known on its likely pricing and launch date. There have been reports doing the rounds that it could cost in the range of ₹12-15 lakh, over twice as much the model’s conventional internal combustion engine option.

Electric is the new buzzword in India though there are enormous challenges in terms of charging infrastructure, range anxiety for potential customers and affordability. Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors are among the key brands that have already thrown their hats into the ring though the big numbers continue to be elusive.

Toyota and Suzuki will be hoping to buck the trend but this will not be a walk in the park. The two first announced their intent to join hands a couple of years ago and, since then, have consistently reaffirmed the bonding through a series of initiatives.

Product swaps have already kicked off with the Maruti Baleno reengineered and retailed as the Toyota Glanza. The Vitara Brezza is next on the cards with the Ciaz and Ertiga due to follow. Toyota, in its turn, will supply its Corolla to the Maruti stable while helping out in areas like electrification and access to overseas markets.

The new battery compact vehicle will be an important step going forward for the partners. The challenge, though, is to keep its price tag affordable especially in a market like India where this becomes extremely important to customers and can make or break a product.

From Toyota’s point of view, what Suzuki brings to the table is its formidable market share in India while it has its global competencies in scale and R&D that it can offer the latter. The marriage is expected to be a win-win in the long-term where the two companies could also look at markets like South Africa and the Middle East beyond just India.

The most recent announcement has been the decision to go in for an equity crossholding which clearly cements the partnership. It is too early to say if this will eventually lead to a merger though all indications suggest that this is the most likely route going forward.

(The writer is in Tokyo at an invitation from Toyota)

Published on October 22, 2019

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