Carmakers bullish on hybrid variants

Written by Yogima Seth | Shweta Bhanot | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 8 2010, 08:31am hrs
Despite Honda Siel Cars Indias breakdown in the market with its hybrid plans, the global automobile makers are lining up hybrid products from their stable for the Indian market. While some like Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) have launched their much-awaited hybrid Prius in India on Thursday at the 10th Auto Expo, others like Maruti Suzuki India which is countrys largest passenger manufacture showcased its SX4 hybrid.

Honda came up with Civic hybrid in the market in June 2008 but due to high import duty and Indian customers reluctant to paying a premium for the technology, the company had to first half the original cost of the hybrid vehicle and later completely stop sale of the vehicle in November the same year. During its brief presence in India between June-November 2008, Honda sold around 300 cars in India after importing them from Japan as completely built units (CBUs).

Out of these, mere 60 units were sold at the original price tag of Rs 21.5 lakh while the remaining 240 vehicles were sold at the discounted price of Rs 13.36 lakh.

However, things seem to have changed quite a bit from those days, courtesy increasing awareness of eco-friendly vehicles and more options in the market. The buzzing issue of reducing carbon footprint worldwide has also contributed to the increasing popularity for these highly technologically advanced vehicles.

Prius is priced between Rs 26.55 lakh and Rs 27.86 lakh (ex showroom, New Delhi) and bookings started from Thursday. The third-generation Prius is powered by a 1.8 litre -2ZR FXE engine with hybrid synergy drive. Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, marketing, TKM said, Through the launch of the Prius, Toyota is keen to demonstrate its commitment to offer the latest eco-friendly automotive technology to its customers in India. The cumulative sales of Prius today are nearly 1.5 million.

In a bid to promote such alternate fuel technology vehicles, the government is expected to come up with few incentives in the forthcoming Budget. Currently, import duty stands at around 104% on hybrids and further addition of excise duty and value added tax significantly adds to the on-road price of the car. Hybrids can only be successful in India if we have some support from the Central and state governments. While the Centre can lower the import duty on hybrids, states can encourage the use of such vehicles by subsidizing their purchase as is being done in the case of electric vehicles, says a Mumbai-based analyst, adding a significant improvement in infrastructure including a strong after sales network for such vehicles is needed in the country.