Carmaker expands its CNG range to 12 models; Baleno and XL6 first of Nexa premium range to get CNG option; Maruti Suzuki has ramped up CNG capacity to 35,000 units a month since August.
As part of its alternate fuel push, passenger vehicle market leader Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) has introduced the S-CNG technology in its two premium models – the Baleno hatchback and XL6 MPV – which are sold from the company’s premium Nexa outlets.
Autocar Professional had first reported in March 2022 about the company’s plans to roll out CNG in its Nexa products as well. In the same month, the carmaker had also reached a significant 1-million CNG sales milestone in the country since it first forayed into the CNG segment with the Wagon R in 2010.
The company has launched CNG option in the Baleno in its two mid-level manual-transmission trims – Delta and Zeta – priced at Rs 828,000 and Rs 921,000, respectively whereas in the XL6, the CNG option is only made available in the Zeta MT variant, priced at Rs 1,224,000, ex-showroom. The two cars command a price premium of Rs 95,000 over their petrol-powered counterparts.
While the Baleno CNG is rated to deliver 30.61 kilometres per kilogram of gas, the XL6 CNG gets a certified fuel economy number of 26.32 kilometres per kilogram of CNG.
The new Baleno and XL6 CNG can also be owned through Maruti Suzuki Subscribe – the company’s subscription programme at an all-inclusive monthly subscription fee starting from Rs 18,403 and Rs 30,821, respectively.
Maruti Suzuki has been the pioneering OEM in the factory-fitted CNG segment in India and its S-CNG technology offers dual inter-dependent ECUs, an intelligent CNG injection system, stainless steel pipes and joints to avoid corrosion and leakage in the entire CNG circuit. Uniquely, for the first time in India, the Baleno CNG (Zeta trim) offers six airbags while the XL6 CNG also gets dual front and side airbags as standard passive safety features.
CNG capacity ramped up to 35,000 units a month
While the company had a monthly CNG installation capacity of 26,000 units by end-July at its plant in Gurugram, it has been ramping up the capacity to introduce new models with the green fuel option and at present, the CNG capacity is pegged at 35,000 units a month. According to Shashank Srivastava, senior executive director, Marketing and Sales, the carmaker is registering an average of 1,320 daily new bookings for CNG cars in its portfolio, and it is likely to further increase with the introduction of the Baleno and XL6 CNG.
Other than these two new additions, the company’s existing CNG portfolio comprises the Alto, S-Presso, Wagon R, Celerio, Dzire, Swift, Ertiga, Eeco, Super Carry, Tour-S and Tour H3. Maruti Suzuki’s CNG sales have grown from 76,000 units in FY2018 to over 264,000 units in FY2022, registering 63% YoY growth over FY2021’s 162,000 units.
Maruti remains bullish on CNG demand
Although CNG prices are on the rise, given the energy crisis that has emanated due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, MSIL is still bullish about growth in this green-fuel option. "The primary reason why people prefer CNG cars over petrol or diesel cars is that their running cost is lower. Through market studies, we have learnt that the premium segment customer is actively looking for eco-friendly options without compromising on performance, technology, safety and driving experience. Baleno S-CNG and XL6 S-CNG have been developed keeping these uncompromising Nexa customers in mind,” said Srivastava.
“However, with a faster increase in CNG prices compared to petrol or diesel, the price advantage has reduced, therefore, impacting demand for CNG cars. But at the same time, there continue to be customers who are looking for lower running costs," Srivastava told Autocar Professional.
The company, which plans to roll out more CNG models, with its Brezza compact SUV likely to be the next launch, remains optimistic about a CNG price rationalisation, particularly with government intervention and the war coming to end. "If the war ends sooner, there is a possibility of the prices settling down to an even lower level," Srivastava signed off.
Out of its total order backlog of 450,000 units at end-September 2022, MSIL had 125,000 pending orders for its CNG-equipped car variants. While the Wagon R remains the top-seller with up to 40 percent of its sales coming from CNG variants, the recently-introduced Swift CNG has so far seen a 13 percent sales penetration.
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