In 2019-20, the company sold 106,443 units of CNG vehicles and is targeting 1.4-1.5 lakh units in the current fiscal. At present Maruti Suzuki
offers CNG variants in eight models.
Srivastava believes CNG is a good option when prices of both diesel and petrol are rising (mainly on account of taxation). The running cost of a CNG vehicle at Rs 1.5 per km is much cheaper than a petrol (Rs 2.70/km) or diesel (Rs 3.5/km) vehicle.
The limitation, however, is that larger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles are better suited to diesel engines, which have a higher torque force suitable for carrying heavy loads or climbing steep inclines. So Maruti has hinted that it may offer diesel vehicles, but only in cars above 1,200 cc.
Maruti’s rival and country’s second largest maker Hyundai
is, however, still betting big on diesel, but mostly for its high-end cars, including the large sedan and SUV segments. Hyundai did not respond to Business Standard’s queries, but a recent statement said the company would continue to focus on diesel despite the price hike. Nearly 47 per cent of buyers for the new Creta have opted for the diesel variant, said the company, adding that the share of diesel is 40 per cent for the premium hatchback i20 and 20 per cent for the smaller Grand i10.
remains an outlier. Other manufacturers, Renault India and Nissan Motor India, had all decided to stop manufacturing
diesel vehicles from April 2020 in anticipation of changing customer demand.
Nissan’s Managing Director Rakesh Srivastava said a Rs 1-1.5 lakh difference between a diesel and petrol vehicle is likely to change the demand dynamics. “We foresee this shift to happen across all body types and more so in SUVs,” he said.
Anticipating this shift in customer preference, Nissan introduced the BS-VI compliant Nissan KICKS with a petrol option only. Besides, Srivastava points out, the Covid-19 pandemic has abruptly shifted demand from cab-hailing apps back to personal ownership on account of hygiene and safety. In the current economic downturn, however, cost of vehicle ownership will take centre stage.
Honda, too, has seen the realignment of customer demand — petrol variants accounted for 80 per cent of its sale in 2019-20. Rajesh Goel, senior vice-president and director, marketing and sales, Honda Cars India, said while there is an increasing shift in market preference towards petrol cars, the demand for diesel will not vanish immediately.
This is principally because some customers prefer diesel cars for the driving experience. “Hence, in our BS-VI line-up, we have strategically decided to offer both fuel choices in line with our customer’s preferences,” Goel said.
For example, among Honda’s three product offerings in the sub-four metre segment, sales of the diesel variations of the WR-V and Amaze have been significant, so these models are available in both fuel options. So will the impending fifth generation model of Honda’s best-selling City. On the other hand, customers for the premium hatchback Jazz are increasingly opting for the petrol model; so the new model will be offered in petrol variants only.
Mahindra & Mahindra, which has a large SUV portfolio, is also realigning its strategy. “At Mahindra we haven’t seen any impact on the sales mix given our SUV portfolio. But going forward we are coming up with an entire range of petrol engines,” says Veejay Nakra, CEO, automotive division.