Tata has taken the lion's share of the headlines with regards to the Indian car industry, but Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) is being equally aggressive in its bid to get more domestic consumers off bikes and into cars. Plans are afoot for a locally made compact car as well as ambitious eco-friendly proposals. MSIL has plans to launch a compact car, much like the Tata Nano and entirely produced in India by 2011. However, despite ambitions for an Indian-designed platform, the car will, for the time being, be built from one of three Japanese-sourced platforms already being used by the company's Indian factories.
The platform will either be the Wagon R-Zen Estilo, the Alto-M800 or the Swift-Ritz. The Swift Dzire, a sedan version of the successful Swift hatchback, has already proved popular in India. Using an existing Japanese platform should prove to be a more cost-effective means of producing the car rather than designing a new platform from scratch in India, as the cost of creating this makes up a substantial part of any new car's initial production costs.
It is also hoped that by 2011, an Indian-designed platform will be a reality. MSIL started planning the compact last year and aims to employ 1,000 engineers by 2010, most of whom will work on the project. The company remains tight-lipped about the price and market positioning of the new car as the size, power and design were yet to be finalised. As well as the compact car, which presumably will be a competitor to the Tata Nano, MSIL also has plans to develop new, more environmentally sound cars over the next three to five years. The MSIL engineers are working on hybrid-electric and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and hope to incorporate these options into three or four Indian-made models, which have yet to be confirmed.
At present, MSIL offers LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) versions of the Maruti 800 and the WagonR, which are two popular hatchbacks, as well as the Omni van. "Our initiatives for non-conventional clean fuel will take a step further in the coming times with factory-fitted CNG options on several models," says Shinzo Nakanishi, the company's managing director and CEO. He also announced this month that the new green technology is earmarked especially for the Indian market. MSIL's Japanese research and development unit will be keeping Indian mileage and price parameters in mind while working on the project.
As well as plans for green technology in cars, Nakanishi says that, by 2010, all MSIL vehicles will meet European end-of-life standards. This directive was adopted by the European Commission in 2000 and provides requirements for the recycling of all suitable vehicle components and materials. firstname.lastname@example.org