Maruti Suzuki’s parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation and the world’s largest car maker Toyota may have joined hands to jointly develop electric cars but if they remain out of bounds for the mass-market buyers then there is no point in making them, top officials of Maruti Suzuki said today.
In a free-wheeling conversation Chairman RC Bhargava said at the annual press meet, which was also attended by Maruti Suzuki managing director Kenichi Ayukawa and heads of R&D and sales, that India being a price sensitive market there needs to be a way to make electric cars affordable and also that such cars have to be the way the consumer wants it.
“So far nobody has any idea about what the consumer thinks about an electric car. We know what the government thinks, we know what the media thinks and we know what the experts think. The vehicle must be what the customer expects and it should be affordable to him. Both these criteria have to be met for EVs to be viable,” said Bhargava.
To better highlight the gap between affordability levels and actual current price of an electric car, CV Raman, head of R&D, Maruti Suzuki, spoke about the electric Tata Tigor which bagged the Energy Efficiency Services Limited’s (EESL) 10,000 units order. Priced at Rs 11.35 lakh the Tigor EV is priced more than twice compared to its petrol-powered variant.
India’s cheapest four-seater, a fully-electric car is the Mahindra e2o priced between Rs 7-8 lakh. While the price is on par with a premium hatchback such as the Hyundai Elite i20 the dimensions of the e2o is similar to that of the Maruti Suzuki Alto.
“75 percent of cars sold in India are small cars. How to make them electrified and affordable is the challenge. Making an affordable small car is different than making a large affordable e-car. A car may be affordable in the US or Europe but the same car may not be so affordable in India. So what kind of policies and incentives have to be worked out in detail”, added Bhargava.
“I don’t see battery-driven cars becoming cheaper than fossil fuel cars for a long time”, added Bhargava. Under the Suzuki-Toyota partnership,India will get its first electric car under the Maruti Suzuki badge in 2020. Around the same time Suzuki’s battery cell manufacturing plant will commence production in Gujarat.
Venturing into uncharted waters, Maruti Suzuki, which has a share of 50 percent in the domestic market, will commission a market survey to know what the consumer is looking for in an electric car. This survey will begin in first half of January and conclude by end of February.
“The survey will try to find out what do buyers think about electric cars, where could they charge such a car, do they have a charging station at home, how will they compare it with petrol/diesel powered cars. This will be similar to what Maruti did before launching the M800 which was a result of a market survey because that’s what the consumers wanted”, added Bhargava.
According to the government’s ambitions, at least 40 percent of all new personal cars sold in India should be fully electric by 2030. This translates to 4 million electric cars considering India becomes 10 million cars a year market by 2030.