In the early 1980s, Maruti Suzuki (Maruti Udyog then) conducted a mega market research to understand consumer needs to decide its first set of cars. The company will conduct a similar research very soon, this time to learn the views and requirements of consumers regarding electric vehicles.
The nationwide research starts in a couple of weeks and will be completed by end of February, according to the company. "That will throw up our first set of reliable on-ground data. We want to find out what the consumers think," says R C Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India. The company plans to launch its first electric car in 2020.
The alliance between Suzuki and Toyota will help Maruti's entry into the EV space. The Suzuki-Denso-Toshiba battery manufacturing plant in Gujarat, the first of its kind in India, will play a key role in the OEM's EV journey. Affordability though will remain the key focus
Focus on affordability and profitability
Maruti Suzuki India, which has a strong connect with the consumer, is looking to continue its strong presence in the small car segment in the EV era with a strong focus on both affordability as well as profitability.
“The objective is to localise as fast as possible, which has already been our policy,” Bhargava. Lithium ion battery cost is the major component in EVs and as a first step towards localisation, Suzuki Motor Corporation laid the foundation stone for the country’s first lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant at Hansalpur in Gujarat on September 14 this year. The Japanese automaker, along with Toshiba and Denso has invested $180 million (Rs 1,137 crore) for the lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant that is slated to be ready by 2020. The manufacturing operation will utilise cell modules from Toshiba, while Denso will contribute its expertise by sharing the technology platform.
Suzuki Motor Corporation, which is the main driver for the JV, will be aiming to drive home the advantage of manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in its key global market – India – where the government is aggressively pushing electro-mobility.
According to Bhargava, Maruti will “certainly set up some number of charging stations when it begins its EV journey in 2020. We will do our best to realise the government’s vision and push EVs.”
Focus on ICE vehicles to continue
Meanwhile, as much as Maruti is focusing on EVs, its focus on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will continue. As per the Indian government’s vision, by the year 2030, 40 percent of private vehicles will be all electric. Currently, given the country’s existing car parc of 30 million units is expected to reach 71 million in the next 13 years. Of this 14.4 million (private vehicles) will be EVs and the remaining 56.6 million will be conventional ICE cars.
The passenger car market of around 3.3 million (in FY2018) will rise to 10 million by 2030. With 60 percent of this permitted to be ICE vehicles, the non-EV industry will continue to see investment in conventional powertrain technology.