Home >Companies >Maruti advances mini-truck launch by two years to Jan 2015

New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the nation’s largest car maker, has advanced the introduction of its first mini-truck by at least two years and the product is likely to be on sale in January, according to three people familiar with the development.

Maruti Suzuki will now produce the mini-truck at its Gurgaon plant, a departure from its earlier plan of producing it at the company’s proposed Gujarat plant, which is now expected to start production in 2016-17, the people cited earlier said, requesting anonymity.

Maruti, which first conceived the product in the 1980s, had delayed its plans, allowing rivals to corner the market. Tata Motors Ltd introduced the Ace, the first such product in the segment, in 2007 and has attracted buyers in rural areas. Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd followed with the introduction of the Gio in 2009. Ashok Leyland Ltd, too, entered the segment with the Dost in 2012, but its sales efforts are concentrated in few markets, primarily in South India.

By advancing the introduction of the mini-truck, Maruti hopes it will be able to catch up with the more-established companies in the segment.

“We want to encash the existing and future potential in the mini-truck segment without losing any time," said a person directly involved in the matter.

This will be sold as commercial goods carrier with carrying capacity not exceeding 2 tonnes. Maruti does not plan to replicate the same as a passenger carrier, even though Tata Motors’s Iris, a passenger carrier in the light commercial vehicle (LCV) segment, has been permitted to be sold as a passenger vehicle as well.

“Assembly of a completely new transmission has begun," said another person familiar with the matter. “Pre-production trials and assembly sampling of at least 100 units should begin in a few months."

A Maruti spokesperson declined to comment on future products.

Maruti’s product will be based on parent Suzuki Motor Corp.’s Carry that it sells in Indonesia, but the product will be redesigned by Maruti engineers to suit the requirements of Indian roads.

Sales of goods carriers in the LCV segment declined 18.3% to 389,312 units in the year ended 31 March, while the overall commercial vehicle segment declined 20.2% to 632,738 units.

Suzuki Motor initially planned to introduce a mini-truck in the 1980s, but a tepid response to the vehicle stopped the company from launching the product. While it received 120,000 bookings for the M800, India’s first small car, the bookings for the mini-truck stood at just 3,500 units.

The new product will be available with two engines—an 800cc diesel engine and a 1,200cc compressed natural gas (CNG) engine. The diesel engine will be Suzuki’s first ever and is being developed together by Maruti Suzuki and Suzuki Motor. In August 2011, Mint first reported that Suzuki Motor, in association with its Indian unit, has started work on a five-year project to develop a family of diesel engines.

So far it has relied on Italian car maker Fiat SpA’s multi-jet diesel engine, which powers hatchbacks, sedans and multi-purpose vehicle Ertiga.

An expert with a leading research firm,who also spoke on condition of anonymity, does not expect the firm to sell more than 2,500 units a month, despite Maruti having the largest sales network in the country.

“This is because their experience in commercial vehicles is limited to a few units of the Omni being sold for commercial purposes," the person said. “I am also surprised by the fact that they have readied a diesel engine so quickly. I think the CNG version will be introduced first, followed by the diesel engine."

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