Maruti R&D centre to join auto district

Written by Yogima Seth | Preeti Parasher | New Delhi, Chandigarh | Updated: Aug 23 2009, 04:43am hrs
In an expanse 100 km off Delhi, the countrys car leader, a realtor and the central government pare pumping in Rs 4,000 crore into three projects that will build Asias largest automobile district.

The plan for the centrepiece was formalised on Friday. Suzuki Motor Corporation, parent of Maruti Suzuki India, will set up its largest and only research & development centre outside Japan, at the Industrial Model Township in Rohtak, The Rs 1,000-crore centre will be up and running by 2012 in a 700-acre campus that will have all that is needed to develop a carfrom the drawing board to the test trackbesides a 100-acre supplier park.

Shinzo Nakanishi, MD & CEO of Maruti Suzuki, said the project will be a dream-come-true for Indian engineers and automobile designers. This comes almost three decades after Suzuki started operations in India and is in line with Suzukis vision of developing India as a global R&D hub for small cars that constitute nearly 77% of total passenger cars sold in the country.

Days before, the state government has approved a motor sports city near Gurgaon to bring international racing events to India as an SEZ project. The project, to be developed by Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd, plans an investment of around Rs 2,000 crore with a provision additional Rs 6,000 crore later. The motor sports city will be spread over 1,600-1,700 acres and will include a racing track, an automobile

R&D centre, hotels of 3,000 rooms, and exhibition & convention centres, besides a heliport and a golf course.

Slightly older is the International Centre for Automotive Technology (iCAT) at Manesar, as one of the three homologation testing agencies in India. The other two are at Pune and at Chennai. The centre, set up by the central governments Natrip, has been allocated about Rs 500 crore for expansion and upgradation to make it one of the most modern automotive technical centres in Asia.

The plans take advantage of the Rs 1,40,000-crore (by revenue) automobile market in India, expected to grow by 9% annually, making it one of the fastest in the world.

According to the agreement signed by Maruti Suzuki with the Haryana government, the R&D centre---which would have facilities for crash test, emission test, wind tunnel and durability test and component evaluation, would be fully operational by 2015.

The suppliers park, which would come up at the same township, is expected to bring in another Rs 1,000 core investment into the state, making it the largest by any automobile company in a single state.

The entire investment would be part of the Rs 9,000 crore Suzuki had set aside for 2007-11. Maruti Suzuki India has invested close to Rs 6,000 crore in setting up manufacturing operations in Manesar and a in new-generation, K-series engine plant at Gurgaon. It has earmarked Rs 1,800 crore for 2009-10.

Maruti Suzuki, which has a dedicated human resources wing for R&D, plans to take its R&D strength to 1,000 engineers from about 730 now.

Though Maruti exports to over 100 countries and exports of small cars is a major element of its future growth strategy, the new R&D centre will cater more to the local market than the global market. Nakanishi had earlier said that the Indian market deserves and needs an additional local R&D capability to help keep refreshing our model portfoliobut Suzuki will continue providing technology to Maruti for global platforms. Indian engineers will focus on the Indian market and come out with India-specific models apart from bringing customised versions of global models to India. In addition, they will try to develop new models on existing platforms and powertrains with alternate fuel technologies.