The largest car manufacturer in the country, Maruti Suzuki, is planning a different route to counter future mobility issues in India. While most of the carmakers are investing heavily in Research & Development for electric cars (EVs), Maruti Suzuki thinks that there is a gap between internal combustion engines and electric powertrains. It is aiming to bridge this gap with alternate fuel-powered engines like the CNG powertrains. This has become especially relevant in today’s day and age because of the astronomical rise in prices of petrol and diesel. The only relief that customers can get at the moment is through CNG kits which come fitted with around 8 models of Maruti Suzuki in our market.
Although, currently CNG-powered vehicles are primarily used as commercial taxis. but more and more people are seeing the potential savings that one can achieve by buying a CNG powertrain. That is also the reason why Hyundai has offered CNG options for some of its products. Recently, we heard the news of Skoda testing the CNG-powered Rapid as well, which tells us how significant this trend can turn out to be. Also, compared to the electric powertrain options, CNG vehicles don’t cost a fortune and are around the same price as the regular internal combustion engine-powered vehicle. This is a huge advantage in favour of CNG vehicles, as customers don’t have to compromise on their budget. One can get the CNG version of their already existing favourite car compared to EV, which are generally new models, with limited options to choose from.
Why are CNG cars relevant now?
The prime reason why companies and customers are looking toward CNG-powered options is because of the recent hike in petrol and diesel prices. Since most of the people require a car for city and everyday drive only, one can compromise a bit of performance for huge savings on fuel. Also, from Maruti Suzuki’s point of view, the extensive development of infrastructure for electric vehicles in India will take a long time still. Currently, only a handful of cities actually have charging stations for EVs and that too, not many. The government is supporting the electric initiatives a lot as well, but the actual infrastructure and mass adoption of the EVs might take around 10 years still. That is a long time and Maruti Suzuki sees the opportunity in that time by popularizing CNG powertrains. The infrastructure for CNG vehicles has come a long way and compared to charging stations for EVs, it is a lot more developed and widespread.
Maruti Suzuki wants to cash in on this opportunity and sell large volumes of CNG cars in India. Also, to fit any vehicle with a CNG kit is not troublesome unlike an EV, which has to be developed from scratch. Maruti Suzuki doesn’t see a case of EVs in India if the business is not volume-oriented and large scale. The EV market is certainly nowhere close to high volumes but CNG cars have contributed over 10% to the overall sales of the OEM from April 2020 to January 2021. While the overall market saw a decline in sales of about 17%, the CNG market growth increased by over 25% for Maruti Suzuki. Taking cues from this trend, Maruti Suzuki wants to shift its focus on the CNG market in India.
Will Maruti Suzuki bring back the diesel?
Maruti Suzuki had said that bringing back the diesel is in the hands of the customers. It will consider introducing an in-house developed diesel engine if there is a strong demand. The demand is strong as over 30% of compact SUVs are being bought with diesel engines in India. That is why we had reported earlier that Maruti might bring back the diesel powertrain with the upcoming facelifted Vitara Brezza. If that were to happen, then the Ertiga and Ciaz might also get the benefit of a diesel variant in their lineups. Some reports say that Maruti is planning to churn out BS6 compliant diesel engines in its Manesar plant. We might have the answer to this question before the end of this year.