EPCA, auto makers at loggerheads over BS-IV norms roll-out

Auto makers say they are ready to produce vehicles with the new technology but they are concerned with the products already made but not yet sold


The switch to tighter emission norms is part of the auto fuel policy which envisages the industry to leapfrog to BS-VI by 2020. Photo: Mint
The switch to tighter emission norms is part of the auto fuel policy which envisages the industry to leapfrog to BS-VI by 2020. Photo: Mint

Mumbai: The auto industry is lobbying the government for a relaxation in the deadline for vehicular emission norms: it wants clearance to liquidate unsold stock of vehicles with older emission technology after 31 March. The Supreme Court appointed regulator, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, or EPCA, is resisting the move.

On 1 April, all of India moves to the so-called Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) emission norms. While auto makers say they are ready to produce vehicles with the new technology, they are concerned with the products already made but not yet sold.

The inventory numbers are not insignificant.

According to the auto makers’ lobby, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), inventory for cars at 20,000 units will be negligible, the projected unsold stock for trucks and buses, three-wheelers and two-wheelers by 31 March 2017 will be 75,000, 45,000 and 750,000 units, respectively. That translated into inventory levels of six weeks for trucks and buses and two weeks for two-wheelers.

Vishnu Mathur, director general of the lobby group, said the transport ministry had issued a clarification, granting permission “for selling the existing stock but EPCA is saying we will not allow you to register the vehicles at all”. The extension is just for existing stock, he added.

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“We convened a meeting in October and made it very clear that from 1 April only BS-IV vehicles will be registered. What prevented them from upgrading technology? If the petroleum ministry can ensure the availability of higher grade of fuel across the country, why are they (auto makers) dragging their feet?” said Bhure Lal, chairman, EPCA, in a phone interview.

“They (auto makers) want to make money by farming out older technology, when they knew the new norms are due, well in advance, they should have produced only the number that last till 31 March,” said Lal, the man credited with introducing cleaner CNG fuel in Delhi.

To be sure, the BS-IV norms came into effect from April 2010 in the top 10 cities which account for close to 45% sales for passenger vehicles. Spokespersons for Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Hyundai Motor India Ltd said all their cars are already meeting the stricter standard.

The switch to tighter emission norms is part of the auto fuel policy which envisages the industry to leapfrog to BS-VI by 2020. Amid rising pollution levels in the country, which has the dubious reputation of being home to some of the world’s most polluted cities, in January last year, Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport and highways, announced the decision to skip an intermediate level and straightaway move to BS-VI.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy at environment lobby Center for Science and Environment said EPCA has asked Siam to get back with company-wise details on the number of vehicles registered after the October meeting.

“We don’t want a situation where they (industry) show inflated inventory figures and we are stuck with older emission for the next few months,” she said. The change is going to be significant for trucks as BS-IV trucks are 80% cleaner than BS III, she said.

It’s technically impossible for the industry to have zero inventory of models with older emission standards as there are always some slow-moving models, said an analyst at a consulting firm who declined to be identified.

On the previous two occasions when the industry switched to BS-II and BS-III in 2005 and 2010, older vehicles were allowed to be registered till the stock lasted, he said. Having said that, it’s critical that manufacturers don’t take this as an opportunity to push sales of vehicles with older technology and are honest in complying with the order, he added.

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