NEW DELHI : Suzuki Motor Corp. plans to tap the popular multipurpose vehicle Ertiga to build its second electric vehicle for India, said two people directly aware of the development, as global automakers accelerate efforts to sell more eco-friendly vehicles in a country that is home to some of the world’s most polluted cities.

The electric Ertiga may differ in length from the current petrol and diesel versions of the vehicle, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. It might also sport a new brand name, they said, adding that the plans were still being finalized.

“Most companies right now are planning to develop affordable electric vehicles for the Indian market and Suzuki is no different," said the first person cited above.

Suzuki will be among several automakers working towards introducing electric cars in India. Their plans have received a boost from incentives unveiled in the Union budget for fiscal 2019-20 that includes income tax rebates for electric car buyers and exemption from customs duty on imports of lithium-ion cells.

Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd is the largest electric vehicle (EV) maker in India, though its sales volumes are limited. It is working on electric versions of its KUV100 and XUV500 sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Tata Motors Ltd recently launched the EV version of its Tigor compact sedan, but only for commercial users. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. introduced the Kona SUV on 9 July, becoming the first automaker in India to offer a long-range battery in an EV.

Competition will grow, with MG Motor India, a unit of China’s SAIC Motor Corp., set to offer its eZS electric SUV by the end of December.

Suzuki’s unit, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, is testing the electric variant of Wagon R at various locations in India and is expected to showcase it at the Auto Expo slated for February.

A spokesperson for Maruti Suzuki said the company does not comment on future product development plans, in response to emailed queries sent on Thursday.

Puneet Gupta, associate director at IHS Markit, said the moves by Maruti Suzuki reflect the company’s efforts to align itself with the vision of the Indian government to make the country a global EV manufacturing hub.

“We may see the electric vehicle developed by Maruti Suzuki being exported to other markets, apart from being sold in India," Gupta said. “In the last two decades, we have seen Maruti Suzuki has accepted all the challenges coming its way and finally emerged as a much stronger car company. There is no doubt that Maruti Suzuki knows the rhythm of the Indian consumer and will be able to provide a product, which meets tough local conditions and norms, and provides enough value proposition to the consumer."

The Ertiga has been one of Maruti Suzuki’s most successful products since its introduction in 2012. Engineers from Suzuki had initially shortlisted the Ertiga and the Ciaz sedan for an electric version. They later opted for the multipurpose vehicle after discovering that major changes would have been required in the sedan to incorporate an electric power train, said the second person.

According to the first person, Suzuki has been trying to develop affordable electric vehicles for India on its own and will head the development of this vehicle, but Toyota Motor Corp. may also choose to sell them in India.

Suzuki has a partnership with Toyota to develop a range of hybrid electric vehicles for India and other markets. Suzuki, along with Toshiba Corp. and Toyota unit Denso Corp., has invested in a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in India for hybrid vehicles.

Mint could not independently verify whether Toyota will partner Suzuki in developing the electric Ertiga.

The second person said the Ertiga and Wagon R are popular among individual as well as commercial buyers, which also influenced the development of their electric versions.

“So, in that way, if the company can come out with an affordable product, then it will serve the purpose of both sets of customers. Ertiga is probably one of the most suitable vehicles to be converted to electric in Maruti’s portfolio," added the person.

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