Maruti Suzuki India Limited's Executive Director Shashank Srivastava has said BS-6 vehicles have already become a huge hit in the market. "Popularity of BS-6 vehicles helped Maruti register record sales this year," he said in an exclusive interview with Onmanorama recently.
He said sales volume increased as customers are convinced by the government's assurances to reinvigorate economy. "Maruti too contributed to the growth by introducing BS-6 vehicles almost a year before the deadline set by the government," he said.
Here are the edited excerpts:
Data shows that there is a slump in car sales. What are the reasons for this scenario?
The cost of car acquisition has gone up substantially for several reasons, including the decision to implement new safety and emission norms. The decision by some states, including Kerala, to raise local taxes, the implementation of three-year insurance scheme in line with the Supreme Court guidelines, finance companies' decision to alter lending norms and the confusion among customers about BS-4 and BS-6 vehicles too contributed to the price rise.
How is Maruti tackling this crisis?
We have launched many promotional offers to bring down the cost of acquisition. We reduced prices on many models and joined hands with banks to offer attractive finance options to the customers. We have introduced new cars, such as S-Presso, the entry-level mini SUV, and XL-6. We have 50% of the country's car market share and we have done our best to instil confidence in the market.
How effective have been such confidence building measures?
In October, we delivered maximum number of cars in a month. It was our all-time high since inception. November too has gone well. We need to see whether this trend will continue, though most of the factors that caused the downturn still prevail.
What are the reasons for the increase in October sales?
I think customers are convinced by the government's assurances to reinvigorate economy. Besides, popularity of BS-6 vehicles too helped us register this record sales.
In the last six months, we sold more than 300,000 vehicles. In Kerala alone, we sold about 35,000 units.
In April 2019, we launched BS-6 versions of Alto and Baleno. In May, we launched Wagon-R. In June, we got Swift and Dzire. Then we rolled out Ertiga, XL-6 and S-Presso.
BS-6 vehicles are equipped with better exhaust and engine management system. The demand is huge in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
Has Maruti completely stopped diesel car production?
We announced that we would strop production of small diesel vehicles because of the cost factor. Small diesel vehicles (BS-6 variant) will cost Rs 2 lakh more than their petrol counterparts. The attraction for diesel vehicles are much lower now because of the increase in diesel price.
We may introduce larger engine diesel vehicles if there is a market demand.
When will Maruti launch electric vehicles?
We are currently testing 50 vehicles in different parts of the country under various climatic conditions.
But the electric vehicles take some more time to become popular in India. There are three major reasons for this scenario. There is anxiety on vehicle's mileage with a fully charged battery. Then there is a dearth of charging points. Besides, electric vehicle batteries are very expensive. Fifty per cent of the vehicle cost is spent on the battery.
Has digital revolution changed customer behaviour?
Before the digital revolution, there were 28 customer touch points. Customers used to visit showrooms to get a feel of the car, consult with the family and come back to the showroom to arrange finance etc. Now, 21 of these touchpoints have become digital. Customers no longer have to visit the showroom because they can access 3-D images of the car and dealer details online. Blogs will help them know what other car owners are talking about the vehicle, while the social media discussions will help them understand the performance of the car. Even easier finance options too are available online. In this digital age, Maruti understands the need to be much more alert. Maruti Suzuki India Limited has 3,000-odd showrooms across 2,000 cities. But that is not enough. We are in the process of increasing our digital penetration.
What about safety of Maruti vehicles?
Many unsubstantiated allegations, such as Maruti vehicles are not strong enough, have been levelled against us. But I must say these are baseless allegations. New Maruti vehicles have been built on Heartect platform, using high quality steel. Crumple zones have been designed to reduce the impact of collision. These crumple zones actually rescue the passengers. Besides, ABS and airbags provide additional protection. Our vehicles fully comply with the safety norms stipulated by Government of India.
Kerala is a bigger market for you. What are your investment plans in the state?
Maruti directly employs 10,000 to 15,000 people in Kerala. We also have investments in driving schools. We don't have any plans to invest in the manufacturing front.