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New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki India Ltd expects sales of its natural gas-powered cars to jump 59% in the next fiscal year as more buyers embrace the greener fuel amid soaring petrol prices and the wider availability of compressed natural gas (CNG).

The country’s largest carmaker hopes to sell 250,000-257,000 CNG vehicles in the year beginning 1 April from about 157,000 units that it expects to sell this fiscal through March, Shashank Srivastava, executive director of sales and marketing at Maruti Suzuki, said in an interview.

The carmaker is banking on the government’s plan to bring CNG under the ambit of goods and services tax, a move that’s expected to reduce the cost of the fuel. To meet demand, Maruti plans to expand its portfolio of CNG vehicles, Srivastava said.

“At the moment, we have around eight products based on CNG. We have a plan to convert more products with the option of CNG," he said.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd expects sales of its natural gas-powered cars to jump 59% in the next fiscal year
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Maruti Suzuki India Ltd expects sales of its natural gas-powered cars to jump 59% in the next fiscal year

The Suzuki Motor Corp. unit, which stopped selling diesel-run vehicles last April, has been pushing customers to opt for the more eco-friendly CNG vehicles, sales of which rose at an annual 15.5% in the five years to March 2020. “If you look at sales of CNG cars, it has increased dramatically. Even this year (April to January), Maruti’s CNG vehicle sales rose about 28% while the overall market is down 16%," said Srivastava.

A larger portfolio of gas-powered vehicles and a wider network of CNG fuel pumps are likely to convince more buyers to opt for CNG cars, which so far have been mostly used as taxis in cities.

Mint reported in February 2019 that Maruti is planning to sell around 200,000 CNG vehicles or more by 2022 to meet fuel efficiency norms aimed at curbing extensive air pollution. In 2020, the government also announced the setting up of 10,000 CNG stations by 2025 to improve availability.

One of the factors that has prevented the growth of CNG-based cars is the limited number of fuel stations, which has made customers worried about the availability of gas beyond city limits. “The government has already announced the setting up of new stations, and now they are following it up with actions. If you look at this year, we have crossed 2,400 stations, and by next March, we will have 4,500 stations. In FY25, the projection is 10,000," said Srivastava.

As the number of fuelling stations increase, the penetration of CNG cars will improve significantly, and that’s why Maruti is bullish about the prospects of such vehicles in the near future, he said.

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