Last Updated : Feb 08, 2017 08:08 AM IST | Source:

SIAM, environment watchdog at loggerheads over BS-IV roll-out

The countrywide roll-out of Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) emission norms from April this year has set off a sparring war between the apex lobby body of automobile manufacturers and the Supreme Court-appointed pollution control watchdog.

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Swaraj Baggonkar

The countrywide roll-out of Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) emission norms from April this year has set off a sparring war between the apex lobby body of automobile manufacturers and the Supreme Court-appointed pollution control watchdog.

At the heart of the controversy is carmakers' plea that they be allowed to sell any unsold inventory which are BS-III compliant past the cut-off date of April 1. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority is sticking to its guns that the car manufacturers not be given any leeway in selling such old stock. 

It is worthwhile to remember that the watchdog, which was reconstituted by the Supreme court last year, challenged the order of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), which had allowed automakers to sell old BS-III vehicles post the April 1 deadline.

EPA states that ‘if the order has to be followed in its true spirit' then vehicles which do not comply with BS-IV norms should not be registered and sold after April 1.

To be sure MoRTH had issued a notification in mid-2015 informing all stakeholders that BS-IV will be rolled out from April 1, 2017 across India and that manufacturers can continue to produce BS-III vehicles till March 31, 2017. But it was unclear on whether the auto makers can actually sell such vehicles produced beyond  April.

However, in October 2016 EPCA, which is headed by IAS officer Dr Bhure Lal, held meetings with Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) giving the industry 6-month notice to ensure that all inventories are exhausted so that the country takes advantage of BS IV fuel, which will be available from April 1, 2017 nationwide to sell cleaner vehicles.

Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science & Environment said, “We have had a meeting with SIAM and we have agreed to push the deadline by one month. So registration of cars and two-wheelers of BSIV will begin from May 1 instead of April 1. But for three-wheelers and commercial vehicles the original deadline remains."

It is further understood that Lal is set to have another meeting on February 10 to discuss the unsold BS-III inventory of commercial vehicles. A decision will be taken whether the deadline should be relaxed for CVs as well or not.

Rough estimates suggest that the industry is saddled with around 75,000 unsold stock of BS-III commercial vehicles, 25,000 passenger vehicles, 820,000 two-wheelers and 43,000 three-wheelers.

SIAM has counter-challenged EPCA’s order stating that the auto industry is merely following the notification laid down by the transport ministry and such ‘random and sudden’ changes as sought by EPCA cannot be accommodated.

Vishnu Mathur, Director General, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said, “We have not asked for any relaxation of norms to anyone. The industry is ready to shift to BS-IV on the decided deadline of April 1, 2017. The industry should be allowed to sell the unsold stock after April 1”.

“A large portion of bus buyers buy the bus chassis and not the whole bus. It then takes 2-3 months before a bus body is developed on it. Now if the buyer is buying the chassis in February and March and the vehicle will become road-ready only after April 1”, Mathur added.

While many manufacturers are yet to completely upgrade to BS-IV two-wheeler players like Bajaj Auto has already fully made the switch to BS-IV. The Pune-based company has thus raised prices by Rs 1,000-2,000 across product lines including three-wheelers because of the switch.

Experts say that since not every two-wheeler maker has upgraded its products to BS-IV it puts Bajaj Auto at a pricing disadvantage compared to its rivals who are still selling their products with BS-III engines.

Meanwhile, sources say commercial vehicle market leader Tata Motors has upgraded most of its products to BS-IV thereby effecting a price increase of about Rs 1 lakh. It is confident of exhausting its present stock of BS-III before March 31, 2017. An email sent to the company remained unanswered.

First Published on Feb 7, 2017 11:40 am
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