BTVI caught up with Vinod Dasari, president, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), and MD, Ashok Leyland. Excerpts:

The Supreme Court has lifted the ban on diesel vehicles with engines larger than 2,000cc in Delhi-NCR. The concession has been made against the clause of paying a 1 per cent cess. Will that help the auto industry and at the same time reduce pollution?

What happened in Delhi was rather unfortunate. I think there is a lot of misinformation, a lot of hype, created even by the media and sometimes by NGOs.

Ask yourself: If you want to reduce pollution, would you reduce the vehicle that causes the lowest amount of emission or the vehicle that causes the highest. The basic stuff is banning the polluting vehicle. Instead, you ban the vehicles which are meeting the emission norms set by the government. So the auto industry is saying: “Wait a minute. The government sets a norm and we meet that norm and somebody else comes and say — ‘No I will ban you’.” That disturbs the auto industry. Our investments are meant for long term. Now BS-VI norms will come in 2020, in one-third the time it has taken in Europe or the US. So we make a vehicle that is Euro-II, and somebody says we are going to ban it.

Is it leading to confusion and uncertainty?

These are unnecessary. There is an IIT-Kanpur study that shows that less than 20 per cent of the pollution comes from vehicles and out of that less than 2 per cent comes from 2,000cc and above. So balance that and ban those vehicles and not these vehicles. It has reversed now. So I think this is more about hype.

Do you think now it has settled down to some extent?

I think it has settled down, but it will come back again in winter. As soon as the fog comes in, people will again blame it on auto industry.

If there is a congestion it is auto industry’s fault; if there is pollution, it is auto industry’s fault; if there is an accident, it is auto industry’s fault! Hope people won’t say if there is a flood in Delhi, it is auto industry’s fault.

Do you see some kind of resolution on this issue? The ban has been lifted and there is an 1 per cent cess. It is still an interim solution. When do you expect a final word on this?

I personally don’t agree with the 1 per cent thing. We will honour whatever the court says. But those who can afford a vehicle which is more than 2,000cc, do you think they won’t buy with 1 per cent more? This will have no impact on Delhi’s pollution. It might have some impact on congestion.

But a person who is not buying a 2,000cc diesel vehicle will buy a 2,000cc petrol vehicle. He still needs a vehicle!

Are you saying that consumers are retracting and are not looking at diesel now as an option?

Once it is purchased, they cannot ban it. It is in the consumer’s hand. A petrol engine produces about 35 per cent more greenhouse gases than a diesel one. The entire Europe runs on diesel. Here we are saying diesel is bad.

The media, the NGOs, the auto industry and the policy-makers should come together and look at the scientific data, lay out a road map saying this is the best thing for the country and stick to it.

I say it with pride that the auto industry in India is the fastest to adopt emission and safety regulations. You tell us what you want and we will do it over a period of time. How can we say that we will get to Euro-VI in three years?

We don’t know whether there is fuel availability or not. If I have created a Euro-VI engine, I cannot test it because there is no fuel available in India. People say it is available in Europe.

If you take the current European system and plug it into an Indian vehicle and if you have the flood like we have in Delhi, it will explode. In a Euro-VI vehicle, the after-treatment system is so complex that it is much more expensive than the engine. In Euro-VI engines, if there is a slightest error, it shuts down. In three years’ the entire ecosystem of this country has to change.