Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Maruti goes back to draw­ing board for its EV push

- Amrit Raj and Malyaban Ghosh amrit.r@livemint.com

NEWDELHI: Thirty-four years af­ter rolling out the coun­try’s first peo­ple’s car, Maruti Suzuki In­dia Ltd is back at the draw­ing board. The trig­ger: The com­ing shift to emis­sion­free elec­tric ve­hi­cles, the kind of change that comes once in a life­time.

The com­pany is look­ing for lithium sup­pli­ers for a lithium ion bat­tery plant in Gu­jarat, plan­ning to build a brand new elec­tric ve­hi­cle for In­dia, and work­ing with its deal­ers to set up charg­ing net­works, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive Kenichi Ayukawa said in an in­ter­view. The ef­forts are part of Maruti’s ini­tia­tives to move to­wards an elec­tric car port­fo­lio.

“In a sense, we are try­ing to chal­lenge our­selves as the time has come to change the game. Hence, we have to re­view (our strat­egy) and start again from zero,” Ayukawa said. “We need to de­cide if we want to buy (lithium) from a (Latin) Amer­i­can coun­try or some other coun­try. We need to find a source for that.”

Elec­tric ve­hi­cles ac­count for less than 1% of global auto sales, but their threat is forc­ing the world’s big­gest au­tomak­ers to rein­vent them­selves -- in­clud­ing Maruti Suzuki, In­dia’s largest car­maker.

The com­pany is also run­ning a na­tion-wide sur­vey to un­der­stand the needs and ex­pec­ta­tions of cus­tomers in the elec­tric ve­hi­cle seg­ment.

Seek­ing gov­ern­ment sup­port, Ayukawa said that if the supply of lithium is con­strained, it will hin­der the coun­try’s elec­tric ve­hi­cle pro­gramme. “If we can­not get lithium, we can­not make such kind of a prod­uct.”

Get­ting lithium is one thing, safe han­dling is an­other. “Lithium ion bat­ter­ies can be very dan­ger­ous -- it can lead to fire,” Ayukawa said. While the lithium supply falls in place, Maruti will fo­cus on devel­op­ing the elec­tric ve­hi­cle.

The com­pany will also need to fig­ure out how the bat­ter­ies can be used. Such sys­tems need to be in place be­fore in­tro­duc­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles, he added.

It is also crit­i­cal to keep costs un­der con­trol: “It will be im­pos­si­ble for peo­ple to buy a ₹5 lakh car, if that be­comes a ₹20 lakh car. No­body could buy that.” Ayukawa added.

“Deal­ers will have to han­dle a new kind of tech­nol­ogy; so, we will have to ed­u­cate the peo­ple at the ser­vice cen­tres. That will take some time,” he said.

 ??  ?? We are try­ing to chal­lenge our­selves as the time has come to change the game, says CMD Kenichi Ayukawa RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT
We are try­ing to chal­lenge our­selves as the time has come to change the game, says CMD Kenichi Ayukawa RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT

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