With eye on bigger SUV play, 4 reasons why Maruti keen to persist with petrol
- Maruti Suzuki may, possibly, bring back its 1.5-litre diesel engine but it still clearly sees sense in persisting with petrol models.
- Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza has managed to remain a solid performer, also thanks to shift to a petrol-only strategy.
Maruti Suzuki is looking to expand its presence in the SUV segment in the country and while its Vitara Brezza remains a strong performer in the entry-level SUV category, Maruti Suzuki could also be seeing the mid-size SUV category with keen interest. But while rivals like Hyundai and Kia have both petrol and diesel engine options with their Creta and Seltos options, respectively, it could be all petrol gambit for Maruti.
That Maruti sees a clear advantage with petrol was evident when Brezza went from diesel-only to petrol-only in the 2020 update. And ground realities too appear to be making a solid case for petrol engines over diesel.
Speaking to HT Auto recently, Shashank Srivastava - Executive Director for Marketing and Sales at MSIL, was unequivocal about his opinion favouring petrol engine. "On one hand the cost of acquisition of diesel cars have gone up that is you have to run your longer to recover the initial high cost of the purchase and secondly in this pandemic and lockdown you cannot take it out for driving. Hence it is a double whammy," he said.
So is the possible increase in future focus on petrol from Maruti understandable? Here are four factors, according to Srivastava, that make petrol engines far more sense.
Shift towards petrol across segments
Srivastava highlights that apart from in SUVs, segments across the Indian auto landscape are overwhelmingly in favour of petrol. This, he says, includes MPVs and entry-level SUVs too. ". In the entry SUV category the diesel level has come from 80 to 85% to less than 25% in the last couple of years that has which has helped Brezza. Brezza’s shift to petrol comes with the overall shift in preference of the industry."
Cost of acquisition
Srivastava further explains that conversion to BS 6 has meant prices of diesel vehicles have gone up and that one would have to drive more than before, and for longer, to recover the cost. "What used to 1 to 1.2 lakh diff between diesel and petrol vehicle now stands at ₹1.5 lakh to ₹2 lakh and hence there lies no economic logic to it," he says.
Fuel price surge
Rates of both petrol and diesel are at record levels and show no sign of coming down. In several cities across the country, per litre petrol price is now in three figures. While running a petrol vehicle, quite obviously, has become an expensive exercise, diesel rates have been climbing too and in many states, the difference with petrol has been narrowing. Srivastava says the per litre rate difference between the two fuels is around ₹5 but he feels since mileage of petrol cars has improved over the past years, it isn't as if a petrol car is significantly more expensive to drive than its diesel counterpart.
Diesel in times of WFH
The main advantage of a diesel vehicle was primarily for someone who drives long distances on a weekly or monthly basis. But with more and more people working from home, daily commutes are limited in Covid-19 times. Srivastava therefore feels that a diesel vehicle tends to lose that advantage.