India’s leading carmaker Maruti Suzuki has been driving towards sustainability in the mobility ecosystem in more ways than one. While it was the first automaker to announce its exit from making diesel-powered cars in the BS VI regime, it has been making strides when it comes to adopting environment-friendly means to transport new vehicles produced at its plants to dealerships across the country.
Starting March 2014, the company began using rail transportation with its first despatch taking place through double-decker flexi-deck rakes of the Indian Railways. Since then, rail transportation has played a crucial role in its finished goods logistics operations and Maruti Suzuki says it has transported over 670,000 cars with a CAGR of 18 percent.
Of this, in FY2020, the company despatched 178,000 cars by using freight trains, which marks a 15 percent year-on-year increase over FY2019, and accountsfor 12 percent of its total sales in the fiscal year. Maruti Suzuki had sold 1,414,346 units in the domestic market in FY2020.
While India’s dense railway network has been allowing the company to cut down on the time taken to transport its newly built vehicles from its plants to dealerships in various cities across the country, it has also served to significantly reduce its carbon footprint by offsetting nearly 3,000 MT of CO2 emissions, as claimed by Maruti Suzuki.
Moreover, leveraging freight transportation of the Indian Railways has allowed the carmaker to avoid 100,000 trips on the national highways, thus, saving nearly 100 million litres of diesel used by heavy-duty, cargo-carrying trucks involved in automotive transportation.
According to Kenichi Ayukawa, Managing Director and CEO, Maruti Suzuki India, “Considering the increasing volumes, our team felt the need for large-scale logistics flow. We realised, that not only for expansion but also for risk mitigation we have to look beyond road mode logistics.”
High-speed railway transport
Maruti Suzuki has traversed a long journey on rails and has come a long way from using single-deck (converted from old passenger coaches) rakes to deploying high-speed, high-capacity, new design double-deck rakes.
In the initial days, the single-deck rakes which were christened New Modified Goods (NMG) could only handle 125 cars each. As the company’s volumes started growing, it felt the need to shift to high-capacity dedicated wagons, and eventually saw the Indian Railway’s design arm – Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) – come up with a new design called BCACM.
These double-decker rakes doubled the vehicle-carrying capacity to 265 cars and were brought into operation as per the suggestion of Maruti Suzuki and some other carmakers in India. However, it was not long before Maruti Suzuki felt the need for enhanced payload and speed as the BCACM rakes couldn’t accommodate all models on offer in its portfolio. As a next-generation rake design, the RDSO engineered the new auto-wagon design called the BCACBM.
Meanwhile, Maruti Suzuki also became the first automaker in the country to obtain the Automobile Freight Train Operator (AFTO) license, which allows private firms to fabricate and operate high-speed, high-capacity auto-wagon rakes on the Indian Railway’s network. As a result, the prototypes for the BCACBM wagons were fabricated by Maruti Suzuki and later got approved by the RDSO for being manufactured.
The new design BCACBM rakes were more flexible and could accommodate all models in the company’s portfolio which now includes tall crossovers such as the S-Cross and Vitara Brezza, as well as wide midsized sedans like the Ciaz.
The capacity of the BCACBM rakes increased from 265 to 318, a 20 percent uptick, while they were also designed to operate at a reasonably high speed of 95kph, highest for any goods train in India.
Maruti Suzuki says that till date, 27 such high-speed trains have been inducted by the company as well as its service providers for transportation of its cars across the country.
At present, the company utilises five loading terminals – Gurgaon (Haryana), Farukhnagar (Haryana), Patli (Haryana), Kathuwas (Rajasthan), and Detroj (Gujarat) and 13 destination terminals – Bangalore, Nagpur, Mumbai, Guwahati, Mundra Port, Indore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, NCR, Siliguri and Agartala. It says that with addition of Agartala into the rail network, the reach of its rail mode has been extended to the North East and it has helped Maruti Suzuki reduce the time to deliver its new vehicles to these cities by nearly half.