Despite the Supreme Court ban on diesel vehicles and the trending eco-awareness in the country, fewer customers are opting for CNG powered vehicles.
Companies too have tweaked their production plans and want to include more petrol variants rather than CNG ones. The reason for this according to industry experts is the paucity of CNG filling stations in the National Capital Region.
Maruti Suzuki, which has the largest portfolio of factory-fitted CNG vehicles in the country, registered a modest increase of 3% in sales of CNG vehicles in the last financial year at 59,800 units, compared to 58,000 sold in the previous fiscal. The company currently offers CNG options in six models – Alto, Alto K10, Celerio, WagonR, Eeco and Ertiga.
WagonR accounted for nearly half of these volumes with sales of around 29,000 units of CNG-powered versions. Eeco CNG was a distant second with sales of over 11,000 units. CNG vehicles contribute around 5% to Maruti Suzuki's overall volumes at present.
RS Kalsi, executive director (sales & marketing) at Maruti Suzuki said, "Limited network has been a major deterrent to penetration of CNG vehicles, especially for customers who own one vehicle and travel long distances. Also, customers are increasingly looking at new technologies such as smart hybrids offering superior fuel efficiency and low emission."
In the case of Ertiga, for instance, which has both CNG and SHVS (smart hybrid system) trims, CNG accounts for 9-10% of sales, while SHVS trim contributes over 57-58%.
Ertiga SHVS delivers a fuel economy of 24.52 km per litre an improvement of over 18% over the outgoing diesel variant.
Rakesh Srivastava, senior vicepresident (sales & marketing), Hyundai Motor India (HMIL), said demand uptake is more for petrol cars though enquiries as well as sales of CNG vehicles have increased in the NCR.
"Currently, the market is seeing a pronounced shift from diesel to petrol,” he said. “There are customers who are seeking low cost of ownership and are gravitating towards CNG options. But the challenge in growth of CNG vehicles is infrastructure. CNG is not a universal fuel available across the country. Besides, there are constraints in supplies of approved CNG kits."
So while sales of petrol cars zoomed to account for 56% of all new passenger vehicles sold in the last financial year due to the backlash on diesel, sales of CNG versions were subdued.
Hyundai has Eon, i10, Grand and XCent available with advanced sequential CNG kits.
There is no official estimate, but industry sources indicate that 8-9% of vehicles in the domestic market run on CNG. While a quarter of these sales come from factory-fitted CNG cars, the rest comprise retro-fitted models.
According to industry estimates, CNG is available at over 650 stations covering about 35% of the automobile market in India.
"Availability of CNG as well as the limited number of dispensing stations has restricted sales to markets in Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat," said VG Ramakrishnan, managing director at consulting firm Avanteum Advisors.