Pick-up and SUV-specialist Isuzu could launch a mini sports utility vehicle in India to cash in on the undying demand for such vehicles in the country.
A senior official of Isuzu Motors India, the Indian subsidiary of the Japanese company, said that a smaller SUV is under development, and it will take a final call on a possible launch in the Indian market. “SUV demand is growing not just in India but across the world and the trend is expected to remain like that for some more years. Product development work (for smaller SUVs) is going on internationally and we are yet to decide if India should be one of the markets for it,” Ken Takashima, Deputy Managing Director and Executive Vice President, Isuzu India Motors India told Moneycontrol.
The growth in mini and compact SUVs in India has beaten every other segment in the auto industry. Car market leader Maruti Suzuki dethroned Mahindra & Mahindra to become the largest SUV player in the country with the Vitara Brezza. It is followed by an equally robust Hyundai Creta.
The six-year-old Isuzu Motors India presently sells one SUV mu-X and three pick-ups under the brand D-Max in the country. The mu-X, which is priced at Rs 26.26 lakh (ex-showroom, Hyderabad) competes with the Toyota Fortuner and Honda CR-V.
“As we go along we will consider what kind of products we should have next. In India, we are relatively new so we would like to brush up our current line-up as much as possible. We will be bringing out variations of our current line-up for the future. We feel we can do a lot more to improve ourselves in order to meet customer requirements product-wise”, added Takashima.
Isuzu’s factory in Andhra Pradesh has an initial capacity of manufacturing 50,000 units per year. The mu-X is presently brought to India in a completely knocked down form from Thailand. Going forward, the company could look at manufacturing the SUV in India depending on domestic and export demand.
When asked if Isuzu will explore local manufacturing of the mu-X Takashima said, “We are constantly working with our local suppliers and if there is a chance of better and getting more reasonably priced parts we will do it in time. We are building our relations with the suppliers and are increasing our localisation in our products.”
Isuzu’s India vehicles are diesel-powered, but the company is exploring the possibility of adding a hybrid option. It already has hybrid SUVs on sale in Japan. “For every product that we will launch in India we will carefully consider the possibility of adding a hybrid option. But it has to meet the price parameters to make it as mass market as possible,” added Takashima.
Isuzu is known for its heavy diesel engines. Manufacturers in India are trying to protecting themselves from investing in diesel engine development as well as adding capacity for it. Some manufacturers like MG Motor and Tata Motors are sourcing diesel engines from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India for their upcoming products.
When asked if Isuzu would like to sell its engines to other manufacturers in India, Takashima said, "That could be a possibility and we have been doing that in other markets. Like in the US we have engine factory from where we supply to a Chevrolet model. We would like to be a very good diesel engine manufacturer and supplier."
In FY18, Isuzu Motors India doubled its sales to 5000 units in the domestic market. The company is now targeting 7000-7500 units for FY19.