Maruti's LCV foray begins with exports

Maruti Suzuki India is believed to have kick-started trial production of its first light commercial vehicle (LCV) from March 2016 at its Gurgaon facility. It has also shopped 100 units to South Africa and Tanzania.

Shobha Mathur By Shobha Mathur calendar 27 May 2016 Views icon12478 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Maruti Suzuki India, which is now moving fast on its diversification into the light commercial vehicle (LCV) market, is believed to have kick-started trial production of its first LCV, the Super Carry, in March 2016 at its Gurgaon plant. 

The company has despatched the first lot of 100 Super Carry LCVs to South Africa and Tanzania. The shipment is of the petrol variant powered by the G12B engine. Besides African markets, the company also plans to export the Super Carry to SAARC nations. Based on the feedback, it will explore export opportunities for Super Carry in other international markets.

The India launch for Super Carry is planned in the second quarter of the current fiscal. To begin with, it will be launched in select parts of the country. For the domestic market, the Super Carry will be powered by the E08 diesel engine.  

Since the carmaker is making its foray into this new market segment, it is doubly cautious to strike all the right notes and plans to spin off a pilot of the LCV in limited Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns initially before going all-India in a phased manner. 

RS Kalsi, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India, told Autocar Professional that since the LCV segment in the country is still to pick up steam, the company will go slow, testing the LCV product initially in a clutch of towns and, based on the market response, expand its network further. The carmaker has already indicated that a separate retail format will be deployed to market the Super Carry in the country in addition to its standard and premium Nexa showrooms.

Maruti plans to use the LCV platform as a springboard to enter the small commercial vehicle (SCV) market in a big way both domestically and for exports. 

As earlier reported by Autocar Professional, the new Maruti LCV will be powered by a turbocharged 0.8- litre two-cylinder diesel engine (E08) developed in-house by the local R&D team and will also offer a CNG option. The diesel motor is already doing duty on the Celerio diesel that was launched in 2014.

Sources in the know told Autocar Professional that since the 800cc diesel suffered from some noise, vibration and harshness issues in the Celerio, some modifications in the motor are currently underway to remove the NVH issues as well as fine-tune some other aspects of the powerplant to make it more vibrant and noiseless for the Super Carry. 

Planned production: 80,000 units

It is understood that Maruti is looking at around 30,000 units of the diesel variant annually while total production capacity of the Super Carry is expected to be in the range of 80,000 units per annum, from the Gurgaon plant. This will include CNG options as well as a petrol motor for the export markets, according to RC Bhargava, chairman.

The LCV market in India was facing a slowdown for the last couple of years due to the unseasonal monsoons that left less disposable income in the hands of the rural populace. Besides, lack of adequate financing coupled with high rates of interest posed a spanner in the growth of the segment. However, April 2016 sales figures, announced by apex industry body SIAM reveal that LCV sales are moving into positive territory and grew 14.01 percent year on year. Domestic sales stood at 30,320 units though exports were down 10.20 percent.

The Latin American and African markets, which are the key export markets, have been down, for instance, Nigeria and Algeria. People in these countries have less money in their hands as oil export prices have declined worldwide. In LatAm markets, there is a pressure on the currency and inflation rates are also very high. Considering that oil prices have bottomed out exports to Africa are expected to see some improvement going forward. But LATAM will prove to be a bigger challenge.

“We are entering the one-tonne LCV market and will, therefore, be competing with the Tata Ace and the Ashok Leyland Dost,” RC Bhargava had told Autocar Professional in an earlier interaction while maintaining that Maruti or Suzuki Japan does not have the technology for making heavy commercial vehicles. “We have enough opportunities for growth in the passenger car market and therefore, if we try and diversify in the CV market we can lose the kind of focus that we require in the passenger car segment where our expertise is. There is a lot of scope to grow in this segment and we should not divert and weaken ourselves in both areas,” he added. 

LCV sales are expected to pick up in 2016-17 due to improved consumption of demand and ease of financing on the back of recovery in urban spending, lower commodity and oil prices, seventh pay commission wage hikes, lower inflation and interest rates that will stimulate demand and a normal monsoon that would drive strong agricultural freight demand during the kharif harvest season. 

However, not placing all its eggs in one basket in the face of a volatile LCV market, Maruti Suzuki will have a strong export focus for its new LCV.

A Suzuki media statement on May 23 revealed information that the Super Carry LCV made its world début in South Africa and being the first market globally outside of India to introduce the newcomer through Suzuki Auto SA in June 2016. With a 750 kg payload, it is pitched to attract small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking a lightweight, user-friendly workhorse with a large load carrying capacity linked to low running costs.

This LCV comes with a load bay width of 1.49 metres, and a 175mm ground clearance to counter  challenging terrain. It will be powered by Suzuki’s tried-and-tested GB12 four-cylinder petrol engine. The multipoint fuel-injected unit has a maximum power output of 54 kW at 6 000 r/min, combined with a 101 Nm torque maximum at 3 000 r/min. The Super Carry is fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox.

It would leverage Suzuki Auto SA’s established dealer and service network for garnering customers. Now in its 11th generation, the Super Carry was first launched in Japan in 1961 under the Suzulight banner. Since then, it has become a popular small utility vehicle, not only in Japan but also in a large number of export markets.

In addition, the SA-LCV comes with an independent front suspension featuring MacPherson struts and coil springs. The cab-over design allows a spacious two-seater cabin. The Super Carry will be 3.8 metres long and 1.56 metres wide, with a load deck of 2.18 x 1.49 metres.

“It arrives at a time when cost efficiency, affordability and value for money are key requirements for small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking an efficient, versatile and robust utility vehicle,” says Charl Grobler, manager of product planning and sales at Suzuki Auto SA. 

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