Chinese-owned British car brand Morris Garages on Thursday unveiled the ZS model — India’s second all-electric SUV, after Hyundai’s Kona. Rajeev Chaba, head of MG Motors India, tells Arindam Majumder the e-vehicle will become mainstream when a car is launched in the below Rs 10-lakh segment and that the company is planning a strategy to win the EV race in India. Edited excerpts:
MG Motors has two products in India, and the second product is niche and in the high-price segment. Isn’t the risk factor high?
The company’s approach has been different from the very first day in India. How do we compete in India where there are giants and the top two players share almost 70 per cent market share? That’s why we need to have differentiated products.
During the MG Hector launch also we faced questions like ‘is India ready for a connected car’. But we are quite successful with it because of the size and the features of the car. We want to be at the forefront of technology.
Direction from the government is very clear: EV is the future. It’s a question of when and how. When we have the technology and portfolio, so why not bring it! I believe if you offer good technology at the right price, there will be takers. Because we gave automatic transmission with the Hector at a good price, buyers lapped it up. So, my belief is if you bring an EV and sort out the charging infrastructure issue and ad range issue, there will be some takers initially, and then you talk about the volume. So we can either wait or take a risk. You cannot blame us for not taking a risk.
Are you ready with the infrastructure and distribution set up required for an electric vehicle? With the Hector, we saw that you had to stop taking bookings?
For us, the foundation is important. We don’t have a capacity constraint in our plant, but we have constrained ourselves by saying that we will not produce beyond a certain limit per month. After BS-VI, we will increase production. It’s a very conscious call that we have taken because we wanted to stabilise our system.
Coming to EVs, that will also grow. We aren’t saying that 1,000 cars will be sold in the first month itself. It will be a few hundred to start with. Let’s not underestimate the issue of trained people selling the car and servicing the car. This cannot be handled by an ordinary mechanic. We are going to train them in specialising in electric vehicles. So volumes are important, and ultimately, we have to have reasonable volume but this is just the start of the journey. So, it’s not a risk in my opinion.
Still, when do you think EVs will be a primary pillar for a company like MG?
You look at the long term. The government is making it clear directly or indirectly that EVs are the future. For instance, the CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) rules will force people to find newer solutions like hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
So yes, the ZS will be pricey and niche. To make it mainstream, the tipping point will happen when you have a good EV available at below Rs 10 lakh.
Will Rs 10-lakh segment EVs performance be comparable to one with IC engines?
In that segment, it will not have that much range. It will not take you 600 km. It will be with a 250-km range. That will be a smaller car. But I can guarantee that if a good EV comes in that price segment, the shift will happen in the mainstream.
Are you in that race to build a Rs 10-lakh EV?
Hopefully, we will lead it.
With the ZS, you are getting into direct competition with Hyundai, which has already made the Kona quite popular.
I don’t think there is any competition in this segment considering the numbers. It will be very minuscule for both currently. I think it is primarily about educating customers, building the infrastructure and together these things will put pressure on the government to speed up the building of EV infrastructure.