Maruti Suzuki India on Wednesday unvieled its compact sports utility vehicle Vitara Brezza at the Auto Expo Motor Show 2016.
The compact SUV, whose development was led by Maruti Suzuki executive director (engineering) CV Raman, will take on the likes of Ford Ecosport, Mahindra TUV300 among others. “If Baleno is our poster car for Make in India, Vitara Brezza is Maruti Suzuki’s statement of Create in India,” Maruti Suzuki India managing director Kenichi Ayukawa said at the unveiling of the new model.
This is the first model from the stable of Maruti, which has had an Indian team leading the design and development. The Brezza is expected to be launched in April this year and will be made available in a total of three trim levels and a total of six variants all powered by a 1.3-litre multijet diesel engine. This is the same engine that powers the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. This engine produces a maximum power of 89bhp and a peak torque of 200Nm. Only the diesel version of the Brezza will be brought to India initially, though a petrol-variant too is under development that will be rolled out later. The petrol-engined model will also be exported to several markets from India.
With increasing pressure in the entry-level mini segment, which comprises close to 35% of the company’s domestic sales volumes, Maruti Suzuki India is planning to introduce another model in the segment to strengthen its position further. “Reviewing the market and offerings we are developing a new product for that segment. Already we are planning a product but we have to review the market and decide which product and which kind of model,” Maruti Suzuki India managing director and chief executive officer Kenichi Ayukawa told FE. “Mini segment is the very core of business for us and we continue to focus on that segment. We have to maintain our products,” he said.
In January this year, Maruti’s mini segment sales saw a year on year decline of 4.3% selling 34,206 units compared to 35,750 units in January last year. In the April-January period of the current financial year, the mini segment has seen a modest growth of 4.4%. With the launch of Renault Kwid in September last year, the pressure on the mini segment of Maruti has further gone up. Maruti sells its Alto and WagonR in the segment. While both the models continue to be among the top-five selling cars in the country, Renault’s Kwid has sold close to 25,000 units since its launch.
Mild hybrid vehicles
In its bid to expand its SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) technology, Maruti Suzuki India is expected to bring in this mild hybrid technology in more of its models, going forward. Currently, the company offers the SHVS technology in its executive sedan, the Ciaz, and its multi-purpose vehicle, the Ertiga.
Unlike a parallel hybrid, in which both the electric motor and the internal-combustion engine power the wheels, the SHVS essentially is a mild hybrid technology, in which a vehicle gets features such as power assist, brake energy regeneration, idle engine start/stop and gear-shift indicator, all of which work in tandem to increase fuel-efficiency. “While I cannot give a specific timeline, but I can surely say that we will bring the technology to more of our models, going forward,” Maruti Suzuki executive director (engineering) CV Raman told FE, on the side-lines of the Auto Expo motor show 2016 in Greater Noida, near Delhi. Currently Maruti offers the SHVS technology only in its diesel-powered cars. However, SHVS can also be implemented in petrol-powered car. But Raman said that bringing SHVS to petrol would depend on market demand.
The government had, in the Union Budget for 2015-16, announced a subsidy ranging between R13,000 to R1.38 lakh per vehicle on hybrid four-wheelers and had set aside R75 crore to promote electric and hybrid vehicles.
Baleno exports to Japan
With the increasing importance of Maruti Suzuki India in the larger scheme of things at Suzuki Motor Corporation, Maruti has finally started exporting its premium hatchback to the home market of the parent company, Japan.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Vitara Brezza at the Auto Expo Motor Show 2016, Suzuki Motor Corp president and chief operating officer Toshihiro Suzuki said the “first Baleno for Japan was shipped last week from Mundra Port. In our vision, India is positioned as the most important strategic market and production base. Indian operations have been playing the leading role in the Suzuki automobile business, and now more than ever before,” he said. The increased confidence in the Indian operations is also visible from the fact that the research and development for the new compact sports utility vehicle Brezza was led by an Indian team, which has happened for the first time for the company.
The Indian subsidiary accounts for around 40% of SMC’s global profits and, in FY15, its sales were 70% of those of Suzuki in Japan, up from 56% the year before.