Maruti Suzuki CEO questions govt’s ambitious electric vehicle plans

Maruti Suzuki CEO Kenichi Ayukawa says auto sector needs to study practicality factor of government’s electric vehicle policy before making any move


Maruti Suzuki MD Kenichi Ayukawa (left) and executive director (marketing and sales) R.S. Kalsi at the launch of the new Dzire car in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: PTI
Maruti Suzuki MD Kenichi Ayukawa (left) and executive director (marketing and sales) R.S. Kalsi at the launch of the new Dzire car in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: It will be impossible for the auto industry to shift to electric vehicles immediately, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd said, in the context of the government’s plan to have an electric vehicle policy in place by December to support its push for an all-electric fleet in the country by 2030.

“It will be very difficult for the industry to change things from tomorrow... I have never seen that kind of a change in the world,” Kenichi Ayukawa, managing director and chief executive of India’s largest car maker, told reporters on the sidelines of the new Dzire launch on Tuesday.

The country’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd on Tuesday launched an all new version of its compact sedan Dzire, in the price range of Rs5.45 lakh to Rs9.41 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

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The government is aiming to ensure that all vehicles on Indian roads by 2030—both personal and commercial—are powered by electricity to help reduce pollution and energy imports. India’s energy import bill is expected to double from around $150 billion to $300 billion by 2030.

“I am not sure what is the true picture that the government really has. The point is that we have to know what is the realistic programme to shifting to electric vehicles. It is very difficulty to verify. We could not get detailed information,” Ayukawa said.

Except for Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, which has an electric portfolio, the focus of Indian auto companies so far has been on graduating from internal combustion engines to mild hybrids and smart hybrids. Electric vehicles have at best been a distant possibility in their plans.

A study by Stanford University has predicted the purchase of vehicles run on fossil fuel will stop completely by 2030. Individual vehicle ownership, especially of those powered by internal combustion engines, will enter a vicious cycle of increasing costs, decreasing convenience and diminishing quality of service, the study released on Monday said.

By 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles, 95% of US passenger miles travelled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by fleets, not individuals, in a new business model which Stanford called “transport as a service”.

To be sure, electric vehicles have not been a success anywhere in the world so far even though some momentum in their favour has started building up in many countries. “In the US, there is only Tesla... how many vehicles are they selling?” Ayukawa asked.

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“There are some difficulties in expanding sales as cost is very high. How will we absorb that kind of thing. That kind of thing we have to discuss with concerned people,” he added.

While India is putting in place its own electric vehicle policy, countries such as China are making it mandatory for car makers to sell a certain percentage of their annual output as electric vehicles.

“We have to communicate to the government about industry’s concerns. We have to study the practicality of the policy,” Ayukawa said.

“Point is we have to find some solutions because they are very expensive. It depends on the government to decide the way. We have to follow,” he added.

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