The country's leading carmaker, Maruti Suzuki India today launched a new cross-MPV in the market, christened the Maruti XL6. The XL6, to be sold through the company's Nexa retail network, is priced between Rs 980,000 and Rs 1,146,000 ex-showroom, India, for four trims including two automatic transmission variants.
The Nexa channel, which has spread to 364 outlets across 200 cities in four years of its inception, today boasts of having clocked sales of over 1 million units, which until now included the Ignis, Baleno, Ciaz and the S-Cross. Based on the immensely popular second-generation Ertiga, the XL6 will now join the bandwagon as the sole three-row offering from Nexa, and aim at increasing both company and dealer profitability, as the six-seater iteration comes at a premium of up to Rs 90,000 over similarly specced Ertiga variants.
The new model has been introduced with Maruti's 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to a 48V mild-hybrid system for better fuel efficiency. The engine is BS-VI compliant right from launch and as per Kenichi Ayukawa, MD and CEO, "The company has already updated six of its models to BS-VI in petrol, and will be ready in advance well before the stipulated timeline for BS-VI introduction in April 2020."
While the Ertiga comes with a CNG and a 1.5-litre diesel engine option as well, no such powertrain options have been extended to the XL6.
Talking about Maruti's future approach towards diesels, Ayukawa mentioned, "While we continue to remain firm on our stand about exiting from diesels from the small car segment, we still have to study the customer demand for higher capacity diesels in the market."
"Through CNG and hybrids, we aim to bring environmentally-friendly solutions to our customers," he added.
According to CV Raman, senior executive director, Engineering, "With the new XL6, we want to raise the bar higher in the premium MPV segment. It marks Maruti Suzuki's entry into an all-new segment and we aim to offer unmatched safety, aesthetics and performance to our customers."
Under the knife
With the car featuring attributes of style, comfort and performance, the XL6 is a heavily modified version of Maruti's Ertiga MPV, which is underpinned by the fifth-generation Suzuki Heartect platform.
The cross-MPV developed with a total project cost of Rs 100 crore, gets a revised grille, full LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, roof rails, body claddings and an all-black interior theme to bring a differentiation. It gets 39 percent high-strength steel in the monocoque and offers dual airbags and ABS with EBD, rear parking sensors and ISOFIX anchorages as standard. Automatic variants get hill-start assist as an addition too.
While Maruti is hopeful that the new model, which has been launched just before the start of the festive season with Onam on September 1, will help boost sales, the times are challenging for the country's largest carmaker which has been witnessing a constant hit to its market share in the recent past.
"Unfortunately, the market is observing a double-digit slowdown. Of course, we would want government support too, but first, we have to try our best by putting in all our efforts, new model launches are part of that," said Ayukawa speaking to journalists at the launch event in New Delhi.
"The difficulty this time is a little bit different, but going by historical data, a tax reduction has helped recovery in the past slowdowns."
"While challenges do come in the short and the long-term and create pressure, we are confident of mitigating the challenges by maintaining a strong focus on quality in all business aspects," Ayukawa added.
According to Shashank Srivastava, executive director, Marketing and Sales, "We have seen an uptick in inquiries especially for petrol vehicles, and we are really hopeful that the festive season would mark the beginning of an up-trend from this prolonged slowdown."
"As regards inventory, we believe there is enough inventory around this time which is at a moderated rate of around 35 days and so we feel, there's no need of increasing inventory in anticipation of the festive season," he added.
"There is some confusion in the customer's mind about BS-IV or BS-VI diesel, but when it comes to BS VI petrol, the customer is absolutely clear in his mind," Srivastava said, commenting on the current situation in the auto industry.