Thirty-four years after rolling out the country’s first people’s car, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd is back at the drawing board.
The trigger: the coming shift to emission-free electric vehicles (EVs), the kind of change that comes once in a lifetime. The company is looking for lithium suppliers for a lithium ion battery plant in Gujarat, planning to build a brand new electric car for India, and working with its dealers to set up charging networks, managing director and chief executive officer Kenichi Ayukawa said in an interview. The efforts are part of Maruti’s initiatives to move towards an electric car portfolio.
According to Livemint, Ayukawa said “In a sense, we are trying to challenge ourselves as the time has come to change the game. Hence, we have to review (our strategy) and start again from zero.” “We need to decide if we want to buy (lithium) from a (Latin) American country or some other country. We need to find a source for that.”
The company is also running a nation-wide survey to understand the needs and expectations of customers in the EV segment.
Seeking government support, Ayukawa said that if the supply of lithium is constrained, it will hinder the country’s EV programme. “If we cannot get lithium, we cannot make such kind of a product.”
Ayukawa claims the Suzuki battery plant coming up in Gujarat will give it the first-mover advantage; however, local rivals Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd are already ahead in the EV game. Besides, Maruti will enjoy none of the benefits of the licence regime that prevailed when it was still a fledgling automaker.
The Indian government has been categorical about promoting fully electric vehicles. It has clearly dissuaded mild, full or plug-in hybrid vehicles by substantially increasing taxes under the goods and services tax. The government has stated its intent to move to an all-electric fleet by 2030.
Ayukawa understands that the Indian government is looking for a solution to cut pollution levels and the move to introduce an electric fleet is aimed in that direction.