Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL), which has so far maintained its stand of staying away from offering diesel engine options in its updated model portfolio that complies with the latest BS VI emission standards as mandated by the government from April 1, 2020, is seeing a marked shift in consumer buying trends.
In the ongoing fiscal (FY2021), the company has registered a 31 percent uptick in sales of its CNG cars, which have grown from 55,071 units between April and November 2019, to 71,990 units between April and November 2020. Most of these sales can be attributed to states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat, where the CNG infrastructure is well established compared to other parts of the country.
Out of an expansive model portfolio that includes 14 vehicles from the entry-level Alto and S-Presso to the premium XL6 and S-Cross SUVs at the higher end, MSIL offers six cars with bi-fuel petrol-CNG option. The Alto, S-Presso, Celerio, Wagon R, Eeco and Ertiga are the six cars that come equipped with its factory-fitted S-CNG technology.
While the Celerio has maintained its CNG-trim sales numbers at 10,990 units (April-November 2019: 11,412), the Alto sold 3,195 CNG variants (3,542) in the eight-month period. The popular Wagon R and Ertiga registered a significant uptick in CNG sales.
The Maruti Wagon R has recorded a 13 percent increase in offtake of CNG variants from 25,144 units to 28,308 units between April and November 2020. The seven-seater Ertiga MPV, on the other hand, has shown tremendous growth of 415 percent going from 3,324 units to 17,109 units in terms of sales of its Tour M CNG and VXi CNG variants.
Rising fuel prices draw buyers to CNG models
Clearly, the lack of a diesel engine option in Maruti’s portfolio as well as the rising fuel prices of both petrol and diesel is compelling the company’s buyers to increasingly opt for the greener fuel. While petrol is priced at Rs 84.95 per litre in Delhi, and a litre of diesel retails at Rs 74.63, CNG is relatively cheaper at Rs 46.60 per kilogram which is also stable and hasn’t seen a hike since August 2019.
In Delhi, petrol costs Rs 84.95 per litre and diesel retails at Rs 74.63. CNG is much cheaper at Rs 46.60 per kilogram and hasn’t seen a hike since August 2019. Running costs are lower too: Maruti Suzuki claims 21.79kpl for 1.0L Wagon R petrol and 32.52km per kilogram of CNG.
Running costs are also significantly lower compared to either of the fossil fuels as the vehicle inherently gives better fuel economy when driven on CNG. Case in point, Maruti Suzuki claims a fuel-economy of 21.79kpl for the 1.0-litre petrol trim of the Wagon R, while the same engine configuration on CNG delivers up to 32.52km per kilogram of CNG, as claimed by the company.
Even though the tank range is limited, refuelling takes longer due to fewer number of CNG stations, as well as highway driving requires additional planning in terms of trying to take a route with a CNG station, buyers with heavy day-to-day usage are finding that it makes wallet sense in choosing the CNG fuel option.
Autocar Professional spoke to one such customer in New Delhi for whom moving away from diesel to CNG looks an inevitable option. Naveen Sewani is in the market to replace his 2013-make Maruti Suzuki Dzire diesel which has been driven 165,000km in seven years and has finalised upon the Maruti Suzuki Wagon R CNG.
Naveen Sewani, whose 2013 model year Maruti Dzire diesel has clocked 165,000km, is replacing it with a Wagon R CNG due to high diesel prices.
According to Sewani, rising prices of diesel are straining his wallet, given his average monthly running of over 3,000km and the larger Delhi-NCR-specific issue of the 10-year lifetime of diesel cars, which would heavily depreciate his car’s value in its final usable years.
“Diesel prices are becoming a huge challenge. My monthly fuel expense is in the range of Rs 15,000 which is expected to become half in case of driving on CNG,” says Sewani. “Also, given the 10-year NGT rule for diesel cars in Delhi, I have decided to move away from diesel,” he added.
Mission Green Million
While MSIL says that sales of diesel cars in the Indian passenger vehicle market have recorded a sharp decline, especially after the onset of BS VI emission norms, it is still “keenly watching” the market as there is some demand still in the SUV segment.
In a recent Autocar Professional online seminar, Shashank Srivastava, executive director, Sales and Marketing, MSIL, had said, “Converging prices of diesel and petrol make no economic sense for consumers to opt for diesel today. Diesel sales in the passenger car segment are less than 2.5 percent in the ongoing fiscal, it is only the SUVs that show some traction for diesel.”
“CNG has grown by 25 percent this year, even when the market is down by 60-70 percent,” Srivastava said. Maruti Suzuki’s endeavour to drive more sales of greener cars comes from its ‘Mission Green Million’ – a strategy that was announced in February 2020, and aims to sell one million green cars over the next few years. To attain this goal, the company has planned to offer a bouquet of CNG, hybrids and electric cars in its portfolio to customers.