As crude prices accelerate at full throttle, petrol is set to lose ground as the auto fuel choice. The Indian automotive industry is now set for a major transition with manufacturers in the country looking at developing greener and more compact cars in a bid to combat the on-going surge in the fuel prices and to stay competitive in the budget-conscious market.
Automobile majors in India are now looking at alternative fuel options like CNG and hybrid vehicles. Recently, Honda launched its Civic Hybrid, stated to be India’s first hybrid vehicle, and the market would be keenly observing its performance and acceptance in the Indian market.
Diesel and auto-LPG driven models have been available in almost all ranges of cars, but found few takers, with most preferring the conventional petrol models. But with the fuel price hike, car buyers are now eyeing these versions with renewed interest.
CNG-driven cars, especially in the NCR, are also getting a lot of attention.
Maruti Suzuki launched an LPG version of its popular Maruti 800 on June 5, 2008. This joins the company’s LPG variants of the WagonR and Omni.
Mayank Pareek, Executive Officer, Marketing and Sales, Maruti Suzuki, said, “Dual fuel vehicles have always formed a prominent part of our overall product strategy. We are happy to launch the Maruti 800 Duo as it uses LPG, an environment friendly and cleaner fuel. Besides, the car is economical to drive and being factory fitted, it is completely safe.”
“The success of Maruti Suzuki’s dual fuel models like the WagonR and the Omni Cargo is a clear reflection of the customer preference towards products that are safe and light on the pocket and at the same time environment friendly. We are sure that the Maruti 800 Duo will find favour with the customers for the greater value for money,” he further said.
Hyundai Motor India expanded its range of alternate fuel vehicles by including the Accent in its fold. Accent, a popular mid-size sedan, launched its CNG variant on June 9, 2008. Last year, Hyundai Motor India had introduced a CNG variant for its flagship Santro.
HS Lheem, MD, Hyundai Motor India, said, “The Accent has been one of our best selling models ever since its launch. Offering it with a CNG kit will only add to its appeal as it will not only be cheaper to run, but also eco-friendly. With the CNG variant our customers would find it a really attractive proposition as it has all one can look for in this class of cars.”
Companies like Tata Motors have not only gone ahead and developed cars like Nano, which is set to race through the super-mini segment in the country, but have also announced plans to introduce a petrol-electric hybrid version of Indica.
The CNG and LPG experiments are being carried out on the compact car Chevrolet Spark, the Chevrolet Aveo U-VA, and the mid-size car Chevrolet Aveo. Industry sources indicated that the Chevrolet Spark would be the first model among the three to be run on alternative fuel. LPG version of Spark is reportedly in the final stages of development.
Even if the company has not assigned any deadline, alternative variants of all the three models are expected to hit the market within a year.
With no solution to the fuel price hike in the horizon, car buyers are eyeing alternate fuel variants that are easy on the pocket, and the fallout could also make it easier for the environment.