New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest car maker, which plans to start selling electric vehicles (EVs) by 2020, has decided to commission a market survey to understand customers’ expectations from such vehicles. According to R.C. Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the firm needs to understand what customers think of electric vehicles and expectations regarding availability of charging stations.
“If electric vehicles have to succeed, then it has to be in line with customer expectations. So far, nobody has any idea about what the customers think of electric vehicles. Before making a product, we have to know what the customers are looking for in the segment. When we first launched the Maruti 800 as well, a customer survey was conducted based on which the product was developed," added Bhargava.
Starting in January, the company will conduct the survey over five to six weeks.
Maruti Suzuki will start selling electric vehicles by 2020, when the first product from the tie-up between Toyota Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. is expected to be launched in India.
The New Delhi-based car maker also plans to set up charging stations along with the launch of electric vehicles.
“We will have to establish charging infrastructure once we start selling these vehicles in 2020. I don’t think there will be enough infrastructures available for charging vehicles by then," explained Bhargava.
Apart from working on electric vehicles with Toyota, Suzuki Motor has also set up a lithium-ion battery manufacturing unit in Gujarat in a joint venture with Toshiba Corp. and Denso. This move would probably give the company an edge over its competitors, when it comes to increasing the localization—sourcing of automotive components from local manufacturers.
According to Bhargava, it is imperative for car makers to increase usage of locally-sourced components for electric vehicles (localization), otherwise it would not be feasible to import so many batteries.
“Make in India will fail if batteries and electric motors are not manufactured here. Assuming 40% of cars by 2030 will be electric, then the total number of electric vehicles will be 4 million. For Maruti, the strategy has always been to increase localization of products and it will not change in the future as well," Bhargava added.
The arrangement between Suzuki Motor and Toyota Motor suggests that Maruti Suzuki will sell the electric vehicles in India and also look after the service of those vehicles.
No decision has, however, been taken about where the electric vehicles will be manufactured.
The union government has been very categorical about promoting fully electric vehicles in India and has clearly dissuaded car makers from introducing mild, full or plug-in hybrid vehicles by substantially increasing taxes under the goods and services tax (GST).
“The need of the Indian consumers is very different from global consumers, and regarding EVs also this is not going to be different. Traffic and road infrastructure is also different here. Maruti Suzuki being the market leader has a responsibility and it does not make sense to launch an EV without knowing the customer expectations," said Puneet Gupta, associate director, automotive forecasting, IHS Markit.