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It's unfair to target only diesel: Tata Motors' Guenter Butschek

Targeting diesel and holding it responsible for all the pollution issues plaguing the country is unfair and improper, the newly-appointed managing director of Tata Motors Guenter Butschek said.

“According to me, it is not fair to target a particular fuel as it is not fair to just target the automotive sector. Because the automotive sector, as proven by statics, is actually responsible for a smaller part of the total pollution bill”, said Butschek on Wednesday on the sidelines of the launch of the new hatchback Tiago. 

Tata Motors is among the host of companies, including Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) and Mercedes-Benz, who are severely impacted by the recent pollution control measures taken by the government. These include a ban on sale of all diesel vehicles in the Delhi-NCR area having engines above 2000-cc, in effect since December 2015.   

Additionally, the government, for the first time, levied a tax in the Union Budget on the basis of fuel type and not on the dimensions or specifications of the vehicle which has traditionally been the case. A 2.5% infrastructure cess was levied on diesel passenger vehicles, while the petrol counterparts saw a 1% cess. 

“In order to address pollution from all different angles and to pick out just one particular element (like a) guinea pig, so to say and put all the pollution issue on this one fuel or technology is not proper”, added Butschek. 

Late last month, the government in Bihar proposed putting a ban on sales of diesel vehicles above 2000-cc after it observed that pollution level in its state capital during the winter months was reportedly ‘high’ due to particulate matter 2.5. 

Following increased activism against diesel, companies are now revisiting plans of investment in development of diesel technology for the future. Pawan Goenka, executive director, Mahindra & Mahindra had said in December “When we make an investment we have to know that the investment will live out its life”.  

While the battle to lift the ban on sale of diesel cars could go on in the Supreme Court, companies are already looking for internal solutions. For instance M&M, which is the largest manufacturer of sports utility vehicles, has diversified into petrol engines for its small SUVs for the time being. The company has indicated that all its models will come with a petrol engine option. 

Additionally, at least two of its models Scorpio and XUV500 are presently sold with a 1990-cc engine, thus allowing it to circumvent the diesel ban in Delhi-NCR. Mumbai-based Tata Motors had indicated earlier this year during the Auto Expo that it too is working on sub-2000 cc engines for its utility vehicle range.  

 “The whole pollution issue requires for more global review. Global (is) not in terms of around the world, but global in terms of the perspective; more holistic approach. So, we are very strongly committed to fuel efficiency (and) to ecologically responsible drivetrains. We are open to all kinds of discussions, we fully support the government but let us actually address the problem”, added Butschek. 

Tata Motors, which has a very strong diesel background, launched the Tiago (formerly named Zica) with a compact diesel engine option alongside a petrol engine. The diesel engine, which is a newly-developed turbo-charged mill, delivers nearly 28kmpl mileage making it one of the most fuel efficient cars in the country. 

“We are pretty much known in the market for diesel. We have the most advanced three cylinder petrol engine which is seen in the Tiago. We are as strong in the petrol engine as we are known in diesel engines. We will make ourselves independent from diesel because we believe we have the capability and competences and we will follow the market demand at an appropriate speed”, added Butschek.