With a common goal of net-zero emissions as the industry, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. doesn’t want to rush with commercialisation. Sumesh Soman finds out how the PV MAJOR is laying a solid foundation to ride the commercial EV wave.

The industry as a whole is working on a common goal of attaining net-zero emissions. Not just cutting down on tailpipe emissions but by reducing the carbon footprint in the entire value chain. Credit India’s commitment at COP26 or growing customer awareness, vehicles are cleaner today with clean Bharat Stage VI compliant diesel and CNG vehicles on one end of the spectrum and Battery Commercial Electric Vehicles (BCEVs) on the other end. In the case of latter, Commercial Vehicles (CVs) are witnessing a transformation. After buses that were first to ride the electrification wave nearly a decade back, and three-wheelers thereafter, today Small Commercial Electric Vehicles (SCEVs) up to the four-wheeler goods carrier segment are being electrified and near roll out. Tippers and other categories are gradually following suit. With this backdrop, its quintessential the PV major set a solid foundation. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (MSIL) has committed to making its EV available in India for sale by 2025. Notably, the decision comes after the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) made its intent to stop diesel vehicle production and focus on cleaner options like CNG. The Super Carry LCV sales for the company grew by 235.4 per cent in April 2022 compared to the same period a year ago as a testimony.

It also iterated that the government’s target of 30 per cent EV sales by 2030 may be difficult to achieve as the company expects EV penetration level between 8-10 per cent by 2030, which looks realistically more possible, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytic company. Well aware of trailing behind competition when it comes to the EV mix in its portfolio, the company is confident of recovering lost ground. EVs are a tough market to crack in India as per the company’s new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Hisashi Takeuchi. He admitted, “We are a little behind our competitors in introducing the EV models to the Indian market, but we see that, still the market demand for those EVs is niche. Sales of EVs in the Indian market are still very limited.” “That does not mean we are doing nothing about EVs. We have done a very extensive test of our EV utilising our existing models and putting those batteries and motors among other aggregate components into these existing models,” he informed on the sidelines of a presser. Claiming to have carried extensive testing on the front, for over a year with multiple cars in the Indian harsh climatic conditions, shared Takeuchi, its a means to ensure that our EVs are state-of-the-art and up to the demanding environment which is a big challenge. The Total Industry Volume (TIV) for passenger electric vehicles is 17,802 units. Many are used in the aggregate business model and for last-mile deliveries. Tata Motors led the electric passenger vehicle segment in 2021-22 with total sales of 15,198 units in total, that’s a market share of 85.37 per cent, as per the FDA data. Total electric passenger vehicle retail sales last fiscal (FY2021-22) were 17,802, marking a rise of 4,984 units over FY2020-21.

Hisashi Takeuchi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Maruti Suzuki
Kenichi Ayukawa, Managing Director and CEO, MSIL.

Eyeing growth
MSIL is eyeing the top spot even in the EV space regardless of its late arrival to the party. Asserted Takeuchi, “We have been testing and developing models developed for Indian specifications. By 2025, we will introduce an EV but there are plans (for others) to follow. I’m sure that we can be very strong in the EV space when we decide to enter.” The company is in pursuit of a suitable product to be launched in the market and fully aware of the needs in a price-sensitive market that India is. Takeuchi admitted to EVs being an expensive technology and given the nascency and the lack of infrastructure, it will be an uphill task to put out an affordable EV. The company did test an EV in 2019 based on the WagonR platform with the intention of launching it in 2020 but called it off due to lack of requisite resources and backing from the government.

Things have changed since then. Suzuki Corporation had earlier announced an investment of YEN 150 billion or Rs.10,445 crore by 2026 for local manufacturing of battery packs at Sanand, in Gujarat. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on March 19, 2022 on the sidelines of the India-Japan economic forum held in New Delhi in the presence of Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi along with Toshihiro Suzuki, Representative Director and President, Suzuki Motor Corporation. Kenichi Ayukawa, Managing Director and CEO, MSIL. Speaking at the forum, Toshihiro Suzuki mentioned that Suzuki’s priority was to achieve carbon neutrality with small cars first. He committed to active investment in India in a bid to contribute to the Atmanirbhar Bharat vision of the country.

To shape this vision, the company will focus on building the battery manufacturing plant in close proximity to its Gujarat plant. At the same site, under a JV, Maruti Suzuki Toyotsu India (MSTI) will construct a vehicle recycling facility. A similar recycling facility was recently inaugurated by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari at Noida, in Delhi NCR. Under the MoU, the company’s wholly-owned arm Suzuki Motor Gujarat Pvt. Ltd (SMG) will invest Rs.300 crore for another battery plant closer to an existing facility by 2026. The company will invest additional Rs.3100 crore for expanding the BEV manufacturing capabilities by 2025 as it treads cautiously.

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