BS-VI norms: Maruti pitches for petrol variants to make up for lost numbers

India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India is banking on introduction of petrol variants of existing models such as Vitara Brezza besides exploring more CNG options to make up for lost numbers as it discontinues diesel options while moving to BS-VI emission norms.

The company, which last week showcased the petrol version of its popular compact SUV Vitara Brezza that was earlier available only in diesel option, is also gearing up to bring petrol version of its S-Cross model.

"We have the optimism to recover what we are losing in diesel through this increase in petrol. We have a double task. It is not like comparing current portfolio with next year, it is like current portfolio minus diesel in next year," Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Executive Director (Marketing & Sales) Shashank Srivastava told PTI.

Elaborating the scale of task in hand, he said,"In April-January period, the contribution of diesel vehicles to (MSI's) total sales was 21 per cent. For this fiscal year it (total number of diesel vehicles sold by the company) is projected to be around 2.7-2.8 lakh units."

In April-January, the company sold a total of 12,45,197 units in the domestic market as against 14,66,987 units in the year-ago period, down 15.1 per cent.

"It is a marketing task and that's the challenge. We will try. Vitara Brezza petrol is one of the main (models to drive up petrol vehicle volumes)," Srivastava added.

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Exuding confidence of petrol Brezza to be accepted in the market, he said, "In entry-level SUV segment only competition sells 58 per cent in petrol. That 58 per cent can drop down dramatically if we add Brezza and that's what we are trying to do."

MSI is launching Vitara Brezza in petrol option powered by a 1.5 litre engine later this month, while it is gearing up to bring its premium crossover vehicle S-Cross, which was also available only in diesel option, with a petrol engine, in March.

Last year, the company announced that it would stop selling diesel vehicles, particularly small cars, as affordability would be an issue once BS-VI norms are implemented and it phased out diesel options gradually as it started rolling out only BS-VI compliant vehicles in petrol.

The company's diesel vehicle line-up included Swift, Dzire, Baleno, Ciaz, Vitara Brezza, Ertiga and light commercial vehicle Super Carry.

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MSI has, however, said it was not totally closed on reviewing its diesel strategy stating if there was demand even at higher cost from consumers for diesel vehicles, then it would consider upgrading its 1.5 litre diesel engine to meet BS-VI emission standards.

MSI Senior Executive Director (Engineering) C V Raman said a call to upgrade diesel engine to BS-VI standard would be taken after assessing demand from the market when the stricter emission norms are implemented.

He further said the other option available to the company is to increase its CNG portfolio to partially offset loss from discontinuation of diesel vehicles.

The company has eight popular models offered with CNG option. "We will introduce (CNG option) on other models also because we have to expand further depending on customer requirement. We will do research and find out if there is requirement in all these areas. If required we will definitely do," Raman said.

The company's models which do no have CNG option are Swift, Baleno, Ciaz, Vitara Brezza and S-Cross.

He said the government's plans to increase CNG stations to 10,000 will enhance penetration of CNG in existing locations and also add new areas on the CNG network map and MSI is working closely with the government.

"When they are increasing in existing locations they are easing filling of CNG and when they are opening in new locations we are able to reach to a larger population...We are mapping the whole thing. Then we will propagate and democratise more. This fiscal we may end up selling 1.1 lakh CNG vehicles and we will do more," Raman said.