Ambitious LCV project proves a humbling experience for Maruti3 min read . Updated: 20 Apr 2016, 08:06 AM IST
Maruti Suzuki forced to go back to the design board and reconfigure product entirely after misreading the market
New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s ability to introduce products that create entirely new segments in the domestic car market is unrivalled. That ability has helped the car maker stay at the top in India, fending off competition from Japanese, European and American rivals.
The only blemish to the stellar record has been Maruti Suzuki’s plans to launch a light commercial vehicle (LCV), code-named Y9T. Due for launch in the last quarter of 2014-15, the vehicle has been delayed by 18 months.
“First time in over 30 years of company’s history, a product is delayed," said a top company executive directly involved with the matter, on condition of anonymity.
Maruti Suzuki has been forced to go back to the design board and reconfigure the product entirely.
“We could not understand the load factor in the segment. Unlike a car, where you can seat four-to-five people with some luggage, an LCV gets abused in the Indian market. A one tonne truck often carries 1.5 tonne," the executive said, citing the firm’s inexperience in the Indian LCV market and its inability to read attributes of the vehicle properly as the reasons for the delay.
The company discovered the problem in 2014 when the prototype was being tested, this person said.
Maruti Suzuki’s LCV will now be sold as commercial goods carrier with a carrying capacity not exceeding two tonnes.
Maruti Suzuki has sorted out the problems in the product and it is due for launch in the next few months, said the person.
A questionnaire sent to Maruti Suzuki Sunday remained unanswered till press time.
Maruti Suzuki first conceived the product in the 1980s but delayed its plans and allowed 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 Gio in 2009. Ashok Leyland Ltd entered the segment with Dost in 2012, but its sales efforts are focused on a few markets in south India.
In December 2012, The Economic Times reported Maruti’s plans to enter the LCV segment, in which Tata Motors controls 50% market share.
Maruti Suzuki’s product will come with two engines: an 800cc diesel engine and a 1200cc compressed natural gas engine.
The diesel engine is the first- ever developed together by Maruti Suzuki and Suzuki Motor Co. In August 2011, Mint reported that Suzuki Motor, in association with its Indian unit, has started work on a five-year project to develop family of diesel engines.
The first 800cc diesel engine from this family also powers the Celerio hatchback.
Maruti does not plan to replicate the LCV as a passenger carrier, even though Tata Motors’ Iris, a passenger carrier in the LCV segment, has won permission to be sold as one.
One of the reasons, said a parts supplier familiar with the matter, for the LCV delay is that Maruti decided to build its LCV on the same platform that Suzuki used to build its Carry LCV.
The model is sold in markets such as Indonesia. “The Indian market conditions are clearly very different," said this person.
A third person, who is an industry executive, said that the delay will actually work in the favour of Maruti.
“The LCV market, anyway, has not performed to the potential in the last three years. That in a way gives time to Maruti to work on the product," this person said.
Both persons did not want to be named.
LCV sales ended flat with the industry selling 383,331 units in 2015-16. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, sales in the segment rose 23% and 27%, respectively.
Thereafter, the sales growth slowed and then declined for the first time in 2013-14 to 432,111, down 17.6% from a year earlier.