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Maruti's R&D prowess has grown, it's playing bigger role in development: CEO Kenichi Ayukawa

Maruti Suzuki, being one of the largest auto manufacturers in India, wants to keep all options open when it comes to product development in India.

twitter-logo BusinessToday.in   New Delhi     Last Updated: February 5, 2018  | 19:13 IST
Maruti's R&D prowess has grown, it's playing bigger role in development: CEO Kenichi Ayukawa

Maruti Suzuki, being one of the largest auto manufacturers in India, wants to keep all options open when it comes to product development in India. From the launching of electric vehicles in 2020 to work on hybrid and alternative fuel technology, the company does not want to lose out on "opportunities in the future" as the new technologies like autonomous driving and ride-aggregating apps gain popularity.

During an interview with PTI, Suzuki Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kenichi Ayukawa said: "MSI (Maruti Suzuki India) has been depending on parent Suzuki for technology but it has been able to grow its own R&D prowess and has started playing a bigger role in product development." Giving an example of SUV Vitara Brezza, which was developed by Indian engineers, Ayukawa said the company would focus more on "that kind of technology development in future", especially for developing market-wise strategy around "key technology".

GOVT POLICY FOR EV AWAITED

The company is gearing up to launch its first electric car in India by 2020, besides working on hybrid and premium category vehicles. Challenges are there but Ayukawa thinks it's time to bring a change, which is not possible without the support of people and government of India. He says the company is determined on its target but a clear policy roadmap from the Indian government is important to accelerate its preparation for the new technology.

CHARGING INFRA IS KEY FACTOR

Battery charging stations as part of the EV infrastructure is a huge challenge for a country where many areas are still not connected by road. "At this moment nobody will buy an electric vehicle without battery charging stations. How they are going to implement?" Ayukawa told PTI, adding that the company would assess the feasibility of rolling out EVs in a big way in the absence of charging infrastructure. Experts believe to dominate the EV market, the company would not only have to focus on big cities but rural areas as well, which is a huge task.

FOUR MAJOR CHALLENGES

Maruti Suzuki India's main approach in future will be to address the ecosystem in EVs, which include lithium-ion battery manufacturing, EV manufacturing, charging infrastructure to recycling of the batteries. MSI Chairman RC Bhargava in December 2017 had said affordability was a major challenge that EVs would face and for them to be successful, focus had to be on manufacturing of batteries and other components within the country to bring down cost. So can this disruption stunt India's growth as a car market? "That will depend on market because the government is not forcing this on people, they have decide whether to adopt electric cars or not," Ayukawa told during an interview with Business Today recently. "Things don't change in one day, it's not possible. But we need to continuously keep on improving efficiency by bringing in technology that's environment friendly. One idea we are focusing on is hybrid."

CONFIDENT OF FINDING SOLUTION

On asking how long will it take for the company to have at least an electric variant just like petrol and diesel cars, Ayukawa told BT: "Though there's no demand right now, it may take 10 or 20 years, depending on how people adopt the technology." Despite being in an impregnable position, MSI and Ayukawa are not taking things for granted. The advent of electric mobility is set to challenge industry norms. Ayukawa admits that Suzuki is relatively weak in this area than many other global manufacturers. But he said the company will do all it takes to find a solution.

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