Can latecomer Maruti Suzuki rev up electric car sales in India?

  • Maruti’s brand, scale, and reach can be a big boost for electric vehicles in India
  • Other leaders in the segment, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata, had already introduced their EV models in the Indian market
  • In India, the sale of electric cars has been sluggish with sales dipping in FY 2017-18
Indian automobile giants have forayed into the electric vehicle market with Mahindra & Mahindra taking the lead and acquiring Reva Electric Car Company in 2011. But it’s only now that the country’s largest carmaker looking to throw in its hat into the ring.

Maruti Suzuki is reportedly testing the electric version of the good ol’ Wagon R on the Indian roads, although the car will be officially launched in 2020.

The launch of Maruti’s electric car will be significant because of the scale that the company brings to the table. Maruti Suzuki saw a domestic sale of 1.3 million until December, 2018 and has over 2000 sales outlets spread across the length and breadth of the country.

The brand, with a history of over 37 years in India, has proved that it still has resonance amongst millions of Indians despite the entry of fancy foreign peers. “They might not have the first mover advantage, but the expertise they have is unmatched. Not just distribution, they have a great hold over their brand loyalty and customer development channels, which is also their USP,” said Pranav Jain, an automobile consultant.

The pioneer in the segment has been Mahindra & Mahindra with cars like e20, eVerito and eSupro already being commercially sold, while other rivals like Tata finding a foothold in the market with cars like Tata Tigor EV.

However, access to these vehicles, recharging stations, and service centres after purchase are crucial factors in the consumers’ decision to purchase. Maruti is a better pick based on these factors than other players because of its existing network in the country.

However, the company has taken its time to join the race. Osamu Suzuki, Chairman, Suzuki Motor corporation, during his visit to India for the Global Mobility Summit in September had announced that the company will launch 50 EV prototype vehicles in India. The idea behind the testing is to develop safe and easy-to-use EVs for the Indian roads.

The Indian Electric Vehicle market saw a growth of 124 per cent with 56,000 units sold in fiscal year 2017-18, but they hold a mere 1% of total vehicles sold in India. However, the major share was held by electric two-wheelers with 54,800 units sold reportedly. The sales of electric cars took a mere 1200 units, according to a report done by the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles.

Currently, the electric vehicles market in India faces a massive infrastructural problem due to the lack of charging stations (albeit they are slowly coming up in major cities like Bengaluru and Delhi). The government’s delay in bringing about an EV policy too has the industry in a fix.

While the entry of big players will give the right impetus to a new generation of cars, the industry will also need a proactive solution from the centre.

See Also:
Central govt has set up a panel to monitor indigenous electric vehicles
Electric two-wheelers might cost us less in the near future
Elon Musk plans on Tesla Motors having ‘partial presence’ in India by 2019
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