Maruti, Hyundai, Tata, Toyota: CNG strategies explained

The top three manufacturers in the space are adopting very different approaches to cater to CNG buyers.

By Saumil Shah calendar 25 Jul 2023 Views icon5821 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Maruti, Hyundai, Tata, Toyota: CNG strategies explained

Earlier in July, we reported that CNG sales dipped by 5 percent in the first six months of 2023, compared to the same period last year. While this dip in sales could be on account of supply constraints, manufacturers continue to bet on CNG power and expect strong demand going forward. Interestingly, the top three manufacturers in the space are adopting very different approaches to cater to CNG buyers.

Maruti offers CNG across the board

Expectedly, Maruti Suzuki commands a lion’s share of the market and has sold 1.15 lakh CNG vehicles from January-June 2023. Barring the Jimny, the market leader offers CNG with 15 models, right from the entry-level Alto to the premium Grand Vitara. Having discontinued diesels, the company is betting on CNG squarely aimed at buyers sensitive to running costs.

The latest CNG launch by Maruti is the Fronx and speaking on the occasion, Shashank Srivastava, senior executive officer, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, said, “In 2010, we introduced our first CNG-equipped model, and since then, we have sold more than 1.4 million S-CNG vehicles in the country which is a true testament to our customers’ trust and faith in our technology.” Maruti offers CNG to entry- and mid-level variants only, which have the basics covered, but reserves higher variants for petrol-only versions.

Only entry-level Hyundais to get CNG

At the No. 2 position is Hyundai, which sold 22,625 CNG vehicles and has a clear-cut strategy of offering CNG only with entry-level models, like the NiosAura and the newly launched, ExterTarun Garg, COO, Hyundai, said “Seventy percent of Aura sales are CNG, for Nios, it is close to 20 percent, and 22 percent of Exter bookings are CNG. So very clearly, at the entry-level, CNG is doing well.”

Further, he ruled out the possibility of introducing CNG with other models like the i20VenueVernaCreta and above, stating, “We don’t have products at the higher end, but frankly speaking, I don’t think customers there will be willing to compromise on the power, torque or that initial traction they get. So clearly, entry-level [will get] CNG and in higher segments, especially SUVs, diesels and turbos are the way to go for Hyundai.” Like Maruti, Hyundai too offers CNG variants only in mid-variants, not the top-spec.

Tata to premium-ise CNG

On the other hand, Tata Motors – the No. 3 player with 15,965 units in sales in the same period – is placing its bets on premium CNG variants, and unlike its rivals, it offers CNG right from base to top-spec. Speaking to Autocar India, Mohan Savarkar, vice president and product line head at Tata Motors, said, “Earlier, it was assumed that people who bought CNG cars were budget buyers and had no other needs, but in conversations with customers, we found that most wanted higher-end features in CNG too; thus, these launches [top-end variants] are the first step in the journey of premiumisation of CNG.”

Following CNG versions of the Tiago and Tigor, with the Altroz iCNG, the company introduced its patented twin-cylinder layout, which frees up boot space and makes it very practical and usable, unlike other large CNG tanks that eat into boot space. The Altroz iCNG also gets a sunroof which takes its premium quotient up a notch. With the upcoming Punch CNG, the company will follow a similar approach.

Tata Motors passenger vehicles MD Shailesh Chandra told Autocar India, “We will introduce CNG in segments where diesel is exiting,” indicating a Nexon CNG launch down the line, because while its 1.5 diesel engine clears current emissions standards, it is unlikely to pass future emissions norms without significant modifications. So going ahead, its 1.5 diesel engine could be put to rest. 

At present, Tata offers diesel powertrains with the AltrozNexonHarrier and Safari, and also has a healthy EV portfolio comprising the TiagoTigor and Nexon, giving buyers a wide range of powertrains to choose from. Shailesh Chandra, MD of Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles Limited, told our sister publication Autocar Professional, "Our multi-powertrain strategy has helped us grow faster than the market and it will continue to drive sales this year too. The CNG penetration is expected to move up from 10 percent at present to 25 percent by the end of the decade. We would like to move in line with that or even have a higher share.”

Toyota also in CNG space

At the fourth position is Toyota, who forayed into the CNG space in 2022 with its Maruti-based offerings, Glanza CNG and Urban Cruiser Hyryder CNG, which will also enable the company to meet its CAFE targets. In the first half of 2023, Toyota managed to move only 2,802 vehicles, and like Maruti, it has made CNG available only with entry and mid-spec variants.

In conclusion, while Maruti offers CNG across the board, Hyundai has limited it to entry variants only, Tata treats it like one more powertrain option, and Toyota has entered the space by default, on account of its Maruti-based models.

Also See:

Most expensive CNG cars, SUVs in India

 

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