The largest car manufacturer in the country, Maruti Suzuki is planning to bring back the diesel engine to India in 2021. It discontinued the diesel engines from its lineup after the arrival of BS6 norms in India in April 2020. The reason was very clear. To upgrade the diesel engines, to meet the emission regulations would require new technology. This would make the diesel powertrains very expensive. Since Maruti Suzuki has a lot of small cars in its fleet, the cost difference between the two engine options of the same car would have been huge. The price point for small cars would have gone way up and people would have not bought these engines.
According to the reports, Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant is being upgraded to start rolling out diesel engines. The plan is to start offering diesel-powered cars around the festive season in 2021. This is the same plant that manufactured Maruti’s in-house 1500cc diesel engine. It used this engine in the Ciaz and Ertiga. Apart from this, the other Maruti’s were powered by the 1300cc Fiat-sourced diesel powertrain.
Reasons For Bringing Back The Diesel Engine
Although Maruti Suzuki decided to phase out the diesel completely, it was open to customer feedback and demand. While it is difficult to power small cars with diesel engines, it can work well with SUVs like the Vitara Brezza, Ciaz or Ertiga.
Another reason to bring back the diesel powertrain could also be the slipping market share. According to the sales figures for Nov, Maruti Suzuki lost 5.4% market share in Nov’20 as compared to Nov’19. Whereas, the second-largest car manufacturer in India, Hyundai Motors has seen steady growth, even after the BS6 norms were introduced in April 2020. The point to mention here is that Hyundai still has the diesel powertrain on offer for a lot of its models. Starting from the Grandi10 Nios, Verna, i20, Creta, Venue and all the way up to Tuscon, Hyundai cars are powered by diesel engines. In a bid to challenge Maruti Suzuki further, Hyundai has introduced its turbo-petrol powertrain to power cars of all the segments.
However, with the BS6 norms, a lot of other manufacturers also dropped diesel powertrains from their line-ups. The question arises; Are people getting used to the new powerful turbo-petrols? As one can notice, even the mid-size and a few bigger SUVs are coming with turbo petrols, which are capable of delivering almost identical power and torque as their diesel counterparts. The power output is even more in some cases. The sales figures are also in favour of starkly growing petrol demand with almost 80% sales for the first half of FY21 being petrol cars.
So it will be very interesting to see if Maruti Suzuki is capable of reviving the diesel market single-handedly or, is the time for diesel engines largely up.