In a recent interview to business TV channel CNBC TV18, the Chairman of Maruti Suzuki, RC Bhargava, had interesting comments to make about diesel engined cars. He noted that Maruti Suzuki would not have diesel engined cars in April 2020, when the Bharat Stage 6 emission norms come into force. However, the 1.5 liter-4 cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that the automaker has deployed on the likes of the Maruti Ciaz and the Ertiga is likely to achieve BS6 compliance. While this is unlikely to happen by April 2020, Maruti is very likely to make this diesel engine meet BS6 emission norms a few months down the line. In the video, Mr. Bhargava also says that buyers should not wait for the BS6 diesels as that is not likely to be launched in the near future. All along, he does not rule out BS6 diesel engines after a while, which means Maruti could still bring back diesel engines to its best selling cars a few months after the BS6 norms come into place.
It seems as if history is repeating itself. Back in 1999, when Bharat Stage 2000 emission norms were about to come into effect in India, Maruti Suzuki maintained that fuel injection (which was essential to meet the emission norms back then) was too complicated for India. It wasn’t Maruti Suzuki but Hyundai who introduced fuel injection to affordable cars in India.
The Santro was the first fuel injected affordable car. In 2019, Maruti Suzuki is saying that it doesn’t see a future for diesel engined cars but is likely to eventually make the 1.5 liter diesel engine BS6 compliant. So, if anything, expect a temporary pause in diesel engined cars from Maruti, like how it happened with fuel injection.
Here are a few reasons why Maruti simply can’t afford to dump the diesel engine.
1. It’s the market leader and not having a diesel engine on its top selling cars such as the Vitara Brezza, Dzire, Ertiga and Ciaz will impact it massively. The competition – read Hyundai, Mahindra and Tata Motors – has already confirmed diesel engines for its cars ahead of the BS6 deadline in April 2020. Maruti will not want to lose marketshare, and this means that a BS6 diesel will eventually arrive from the automaker.
2. The 1.5 liter-4 cylinder turbocharged diesel engine was developed by Maruti Suzuki at a time when the Indian government announced that BS6 norms would come into place from April 2020. The engine was introduced earlier this year on the Ciaz, and is now offered on the Ertiga as well. There’s no reason for Maruti to invest money into developing the new diesel engine when it plans to use it for just a year. Clearly, this isn’t the game plan. Don’t be surprised if Maruti actually manages to bring in a BS6 diesel close to the BS6 deadline in April.
3. CNG and petrol hybrid can’t really replace diesel engined cars in the current scenarios. Petrol hybrids are expensive and not available on most affordable cars while CNG dispensing outlets are quite limited in their accessibility across India. This leaves buyers with no choice but to opt for diesel engined cars. Clearly, there’s a market for diesel engined cars.