How will BS VI fare for the In­dian au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try, won­ders Sid­dharth this month


THE TRAN­SI­TION TO BS IV EMIS­SION NORMS across In­dia on April 1, 2017 was noth­ing short of a pot­boiler! The auto in­dus­try had pe­ti­tioned the court to ac­cept its ver­sion of the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the gov­ern­ment or­der – that man­dated the shift. The in­dus­try said the or­der im­plied that only BS IV ve­hi­cles would be man­u­fac­tured from the said date, while sales of BS III stocks may con­tinue. But as far back as Septem­ber 2016, the EPCA (En­vi­ron­ment Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Author­ity) had warned that the or­der was meant to see a com­plete stop of all BS III ve­hi­cles by then – in­clud­ing sales and reg­is­tra­tion too. The EPCA was set up at the be­hest of the Supreme Court and even­tu­ally ruled – just two days be­fore the dead­line, that the date was ab­so­lute, and that any left over stock must be sold by the in­dus­try be­fore April 1. We saw dis­counts and may­hem like it was a dou­ble-Di­wali – with schemes rang­ing from 10 to 25 per cent off the price of some bikes to even free bikes be­ing given with larger ones from the same brand.

All this is well and good. And you can choose which side you agreed with or didn't. But the court’s or­der was very clear. It also jus­ti­fied the fact that there were two dead­lines (April 1, 2016 for all-new mod­els to be launched as BS IV only, and a year later for ex­ist­ing mod­els to tran­si­tion). And in all the man­u­fac­tur­ers got time from March 2014 when the or­der had first been is­sued. So the real ques­tion that emerges now – and one I am watch­ing keenly – is what will hap­pen with the next emis­sions cy­cle leap that In­dia wants to make. It was once again the Supreme Court that ruled last year that In­dia leapfrog Stage V norms and go straight to BS VI – on April 1, 2020. That is a whole 5 years be­fore the ini­tial dead­lines set years ago. And this time there is just one dead­line for a na­tion­wide switch. The move will also no doubt take the March 29, 2017 rul­ing as prece­dent and that is why I called the next dead­line ab­so­lute. This means there is un­likely to be any am­bi­gu­ity on what the dead­line means. Man­u­fac­tur­ing, sales and reg­is­tra­tion of BS IV ve­hi­cles will not be per­mit­ted post March 31, 2020.

So why could this be messy? Well the EPCA’s di­rec­tive, which the court has agreed to en­force, is def­i­nitely a step in the right di­rec­tion to re­ally tackle the pol­lu­tion is­sues the coun­try faces. But in or­der to be­gin switch­ing car, bike and truck mod­els to BS VI, the in­dus­try would need to be­gin in­tro­duc­ing them in the months pre­ced­ing the dead­line. And that means BS VI fuel would need to be avail­able al­most a year ear­lier – ac­cord­ing to SIAM (So­ci­ety of In­dian Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers). It also says the ear­li­est we could get BS VI com­pli­ant fuel is Septem­ber 2019 – and that is also de­bat­able as oil com­pa­nies have not still com­mit­ted to one date. This does not give the in­dus­try enough time to make the tran­si­tion by April 1, 2020, says SIAM.

So we are not out of the woods – or courts for that mat­ter – as yet. The is­sue is a thorny one and while it has great in­tent at the heart of it – needs proper res­o­lu­tion and un­der­stand­ing to en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion. By smooth I don’t just mean for the in­dus­try and all stake­hold­ers – but mainly for you – the con­sumer. Af­ter all, BS VI com­pli­ant ve­hi­cles are likely to be a tad pricier. Let us not for­get the safety norms that are also com­ing into play start­ing Oc­to­ber this year – which will make all cars at least crash ready and carry more safety equip­ment as stan­dard. That is al­ready go­ing to add to prices any­way. And the in­dus­try is ready from a tech point of view any­way – most mod­els in In­dia are global ones (or based on global plat­forms). And many man­u­fac­tur­ers ex­port Euro VI (sim­i­lar to BS VI) com­pli­ant ve­hi­cles al­ready. So mak­ing the same kinds of ve­hi­cles for In­dia will not be the big chal­lenge. The ques­tion is of whether dates and dead­lines can be hon­oured real­is­ti­cally. So does that mean I would pre­fer dead­lines for emis­sion con­trol to be ex­tended in­def­i­nitely? Ab­so­lutely not. In­stead I would look to the gov­ern­ment to of­fer us a clear pic­ture of ex­actly when the state-run oil com­pa­nies will ac­tu­ally be able to sup­ply BS VI fuel. Be­cause that is go­ing to be the real test for our ca­pa­bil­ity to make this tran­si­tion. And I do hope we get clar­ity sooner than later. ⌧

‘We saw dis­counts and may­hem like it was a dou­ble


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