The race to win diesel

Of the diesel-engined brigade, the Swift is the top-seller followed by the Indica and the Verna with five variants rules the roost among saloons.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 15 Nov 2012 Views icon2289 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
The race to win diesel
Think of a diesel-engined passenger car and the one model that comes to mind is the Tata Indica. Since its launch and through several iterations, the Indica has been a champion of sorts. From its V2 to the latest avatar, the Vista, the car is a favourite diesel hatchback.

However, over the years, the competition has burgeoned and vying for the diesel crown are the likes of Maruti Suzuki whose Swift has become a leitmotif of the massive consumer swing to diesel. Other players in the hatch segment that have ridden the swing include the Ford Figo, the Chevrolet Beat and the Toyota Etios.

Swift reigns supreme

When Maruti launched the all-new Swift diesel in July 2011, it launched a top-end variant, the ZDi equipped with several features. The Swift garnered a record 108,000 bookings, 80 percent of them for the diesel variants. And though the company ran into a labour crisis in October, just three months after the car’s launch, over a year later it has been able to make adequate deliveries to those who booked the car. For the six-month period ended September 30, 2012, the Swift’s diesel variants sold 61,565 units as against the petrol which sold just under 15,000 units.

Following closely in the hatch segment is the Indica which has seen sales rise steadily in the current fiscal. The car sold 41,875 diesel variants as against just 237 of its petrol variants.

Also leveraging the swing in buyer preference to diesel was the Ford Figo, which has been a shining star for the US carmaker. When the swing to diesel occurred, the company, which has a flexi-engine plant at Chengalpattu, Chennai, worked closely with its suppliers and was able to make the transition quite smoothly.

The Figo sold close to 30,000 diesels, 10 times its tally of petrol cars. What is interesting is that this car has had only one price hike since the launch which was at the beginning of 2012. Last month, the company launched a refreshed Figo, its first update since the 2010 debut. Ford improved the car’s engine calibration to deliver better acceleration even as the engines – 1.2 petrol and 1.4 diesel – have remained the same. A variety of other exterior and interior features were offered.



Beat diesel pumps up the volumes for GMI

If the swing to diesel benefited several models, it has worked wonders for the Chevrolet Beat and in the process has made the car one of the mainstays of GM in India. After its introduction in July 2011, sales of the car trebled hitting the 5,000-mark in a month on at least three occasions. The Beat sold nearly 25,000 diesel as against 2,239 petrol and has become a hatch of choice as car as diesel is concerned. The car has actually given GM India a respectable tally for sales given that its other successful model is the diesel-only Cruze. Among hatches, the Volkswagen Polo has had lesser success than its peers even though it had a diesel variant. The company sold over 12,000 diesels in the first half of the current year, just under three times its petrol tally. Now, with a clear eye at leveraging diesel, the company is looking at a sporty version of the Polo, the Crosspolo which is likely to get a 1.5-litre diesel engine under the hood. The engine has been developed specifically for the Indian market. Last month, Maruti launched a refreshed Ritz diesel which had a dramatic affect on sales with those of the diesel variant going up by over a 1,000 units. The Ritz sold 7,589 units in September taking the car into the Top 10 tally for the month. The total diesel tally for April-September 2012 was 23,215 units as against 7,465 units for the petrol.

The Toyota Liva has not quite lived up to its potential despite debuting at an aggressive price at Rs 3.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi. The car was launched three months later than slated in June 2011 due to the tremendous response that the Etios saloon received.

Dzire and Verna top their segments

In the entry-level saloon segment, the Swift’s saloon sibling, the Dzire has led with 53,364 diesels sold as against 19,786 petrol units. However, the most successful saloon in the diesel category in the C-segment is the Hyundai Verna which was launched with five diesel variants. No wonder than that this variant sold over 27,000 units between April-September 2012 compared to 4,758 units of the petrol variants. At present, the Verna is the most affordable diesel automatic which is what the company offers in the top-end trim. The company now offers automatic transmission option on the lower trim variants of the Verna 1.6 diesel in response to prospective customers' desire for a cheaper diesel automatic.

The Toyota Etios sold 19,907 diesels and 1,997 petrols. While this has added to its monthly tally, the car has not quite made the kind of impact despite its strong brand credentials Mahindra’s Verito has benefited from the car’s excellent 1.5-litre diesel. M&M sold 7,764 units in the first six months of 2012-13 while just 23 petrols were bought.



And staying with the saloon segment, Ford’s Fiesta Classic sold 6,199 units of the diesel in the first half of the year while just 569 units of petrol were sold. The VW Vento sold 9,869 diesels in the first half and just 1,836 petrol cars. In the D-segment, the Cruze sold 2,358 units while its rival and segment leader, the Corolla, sold 2,205 diesel and 1,160 petrols. Toyota introduced its diesel in July 2010 and the variant now accounts for 65 percent of sales. The diesel was Toyota’s first diesel saloon in India and is in a strong position in its segment.

Summing up, with five diesel variants apiece for the Verna and i20, Hyundai has a strong showing in its respective segments. However, Maruti with fewer variants for the Swift duo has retained the top slot. The Etios and Liva, despite Toyota’s formidable brand status, have not been able to make a dent in the shares of the bigger players.

BRIAN DE SOUZA
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