Running on fumes


The recent petrol hike has surely left many of us petrol users a bit miffed, but trust the industry too to be reeling under the same pressure. How can they clear out their rising petrol inventories and live up to an expected rise in demand for diesel vehicles? It seems to be a question even they can't answer. Even with flexible lines and inventories, they surely must be feeling the heat as well. But think a moment for those manufacturers whose skew in certain categories is towards petrol and not diesel models.

The first name that crops up is Honda. Honda, who have a diesel onslaught lined up from 2013 and beyond will find the going tough. The Brio, despite being a brilliant small car, is struggling to catch up to its rivals. Their other small car, the Jazz is too expensive to produce, even more so than the City and at its current price makes little sense in terms of economics. Therefore Honda is limiting supply of the Jazz, but that doesn't help it in making up for lost marketshare. The City continues to be the leader, but with the new petrol prices, expect it to lose some ground as well. The Civic is currently on its last legs as a new Civic is expected to hit showrooms before the end of the year, according to some sources, but it too won't arrive with a diesel option to begin with. And the Accord ceded ground to the likes of the Skoda Superb and VW Passat the day they rationalised their price tags. Clearly their path to recovery after a terrible year fraught with a tsunami in Japan and a flood in Thailand doesn't seem to be without further hiccups.

Another manufacturer that will find the going tough is Hyundai. Surely, they do have diesel options for the i20, Verna and Santa Fe, but they have been seeing a slowdown in sales with the i10 for many months now and the new Sonata is still to be offered with a diesel option. Importantly, it's the i10 they need to worry about, since the bulk of their sales volumes still come from that single product and such a skew in fuel pricing could hurt them even further. They do have a 1.1-litre, common-rail diesel motor on offer in Europe and we hope that better sense prevails and that they offer it here on the i10. Soon!

Not that Maruti Suzuki is off the hook either. The cheapest diesel offering is the Maruti Suzuki Ritz at around Rs 4.5 lakh. But below that mark, they have none. Successful models like the Wagon R are bound to take a hit, though Maruti's rising volumes on the back of models like the Swift, Dzire and Ertiga will more than offset any such losses.

The biggest loser though could be the Tata Nano. Currently offered with just a petrol option, the Nano's diesel dreams may not fructify until early next year. Until then, it may see sales slip, creating more worries for Tata Motors as it struggles to justfy its low cost car, three years after it first went on sale.