2,000: What’s in a number?

by Gavin D’Souza 16 Dec 2015

In the Supreme Court ruling banning diesel-engined cars of 2,000cc and above in Delhi and NCR, one has to wonder who decided that 2,000cc was the engine capacity cut-off, and why. What are the factors that led to the selection of this particular number? We don’t know for sure, but we know the idea behind the ban was to curb the sale of diesel luxury vehicles, which tend to have large-capacity engines.

A 4.4-litre V8, as you’ll find in the Range Rover SDV8 diesel, is a large-capacity engine, of course. But a 2.1-litre, four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz A-class hatchback? Then there’s the classification of luxury. Yes, the majority of cars affected by this ban will be luxury vehicles, but then what about the Mahindra Xylo or Bolero? Perhaps the idea is that engines larger than 2,000cc will emit more pollutants than smaller ones. Comparing apples to apples, of course they would, but that theory completely disregards advancements in technology that some engines use that others don’t. An older, cheaper engine with a smaller capacity could likely do as much damage (perhaps more) to the environment, than a new, state-of-the-art, higher-capacity motor.


Then there’s the question of which carmakers this ban will hurt, based on the models in their range and their popularity. Sure, all diesel cars with six cylinders and above are affected, but what about smaller ones? Four-cylinder motors are, for many carmakers, the smaller, more popular, more efficient option, but a lot of them will be banned. Maruti Suzuki is 100 percent safe, and Hyundai only has the Santa Fe SUV on the red list. However, all of Mahindra’s SUVs except the new TUV300 are off the market. All of Tata Motors’ SUVs and MPVs are too. Then there’s Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz, whose entire diesel ranges are off the market, as their 4-cylinder motors are only just above 2,000cc in capacity, at 2,179cc and 2,143cc respectively. That puts them at a huge disadvantage against rivals BMW and Audi, both of which can continue selling their 4-cylinder diesel models, as their capacities are less than 2,000cc.

The part-time restriction will certainly reduce the number of diesel vehicles that ply Delhi’s roads, if only temporarily. The bigger hit will be to carmakers big and small, some of whom have only recently launched some of their most anticipated new models, just to have them banned for three months –  the Audi Q7, for instance. Then there’s the matter of stock, distribution, production and assembly of the banned vehicles, all of which will hurt carmakers a bit more.


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