Challenge to bring lifestyle products amidst tightening emission norms: Maruti
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. has been eluding launching lifestyle products for a while now but the imminent arrival of the Jimny off-roader marks a significant change in direction for India’s largest automaker. However, it is challenging to bring lifestyle offerings to the market amidst tightening emission norms, admitted a senior company official while speaking to HT Auto.
CV Raman - Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Maruti Suzuki said that the new CAFE norms made it difficult for automakers to bring more lifestyle products, which may not necessarily meet the overall CO2 emission requirements. Nevertheless, he iterated that there is a need to make lifestyle vehicles more environment-friendly.
“You know that's always a challenge because these are lifestyle products and lifestyle products, and the four-wheel drive and what it represents always has an impact on the overall CO2 impact for the fleet. We have factored the reduced CO2 into this. But having said that, what I can also say is that it is one of the best in class fuel efficiency as far as that kind of a product is concerned. They [engineers] have been able to keep the footprint of the vehicle small."
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Models like the Jimny have always remained a heart-over-head purchase and the upcoming five-door version is no different. We drove the Jimny recently and echoed a similar decision. The SUV is light on its feet but gets a fairly simple 1.5-litre petrol engine missing out on mild-hybrid and strong-hybrid technologies that now come equipped on the newer cars from Maruti Suzuki. It also uses the K15B engine as opposed to the upgraded K15C seen on models like the Brezza.
But CV Raman emphasises that its lifestyle offerings also follow the same brand ethos as its more mainstream offerings. “We have kept it [Jimny] very nimble and light with the best power-to-weight ratio and thereby we are able to give a 19+ kilometre per litre even on the Jimny. So I think that is something which is very, very important and key to our product development strategy overall."
The Jimny 5-door claims a fuel efficiency figure of 16.94 kmpl on the manual and 16.39 kmpl on the automatic. Both variants get 4x4 as standard and the off-roader has already garnered over 30,000 orders even before prices are out. Clearly, there is strong demand for the Jimny with India being the first market to get the five-door version. However, future emission norms won’t make it easy for automakers to make exceptions for long.
Watch: Maruti Suzuki Jimny SUV: First Drive Review
Raman san admits more needs to be done to align lifestyle offerings with the future norms that will only get more stringent from hereon. “In future, we have to look at other possibilities and see how to further ensure [feasibility]. Because on the fleet side, we will go much beyond and we are going to 24-25 kmpl on many of the models with certain technologies being there. So yes, the Jimmy does bring down the average, but it's a lifestyle product and it’s a product which we need to have in our portfolio. But we have to make it into an efficient product, which we have done."
It's also important to balance the scales and optimise potential, said CV Raman. “Having a bigger manufacturing footprint, bigger engines, not having technology incorporated which can reduce the CO2 is definitely a big no-no. Whenever we will do any product development we have to keep all these things in mind and then only introduce a product. Weight is important, CO2 output is very important and what it means from a use case and volume. We'll have to find the balancing from other segments if that is so. You have to optimise this and see how to make sure that you meet the regulatory requirements, meet the CAFE requirements and optimise the product development strategy and portfolio. From a brand perspective, this [Jimny] would be one of the lower ones from a CO2 perspective but having said that that is an important constituent of our portfolio," he added.
The Maruti Suzuki Jimny 5-door goes on sale on June 7, 2023, and takes on the Mahindra Thar and Force Gurkha off-roader in the segment. It's also fairly loaded when compared to the Thar. While both SUVs are known to be rugged and heavy, the Jimny differentiates itself with its smaller proportions, light and nimble nature, and compact footprint. Pricing will be crucial for the Jimny’s success once it hits the Nexa showrooms pan India.