The Maruti Suzuki Alto is probably one of the most popular models in the country and what could probably hold the title of “people’s car” as a worthy successor to the Maruti 800, having sold over 43 lakh units to date. However, the road ahead for this entry-level hatchback is getting steeper and tougher to negotiate.
Nitin Gadkari, the Indian Minister for Road Transport and Highways, has called for even more stringent safety norms for passenger vehicles in India. In addition to the existing norms of two airbags, ABS, parking sensors, speed warnings, and seatbelt warnings, cars will now have to add four additional airbags (side and curtain) and even seatbelt warnings for all seats later. The draft safety norms that will kick in for all vehicles launched after October 2022 mandate six airbags for all vehicles that can carry up to eight passengers.
In a recent statement, the Minister claimed that it costs just “Rs 800 for an airbag”, and carmakers would easily be able to add that into a vehicle. However, most automakers have stated that it could increase costs by up to Rs 50,000 per vehicle to comply. This could spell trouble for carmakers like Maruti Suzuki operating in a very price-sensitive market. The carmaker has nearly a 90 percent market share in the entry-level segment, which has always been its strength.
However, over the years, rising input costs and additional safety and convenience features built into vehicles have pushed up prices. The Alto K10, for instance, costs almost twice what it did about a decade ago – this version is priced between Rs 3.99 lakh and Rs 5.84 lakh ex-showroom. On-road prices, depending on the state it is registered in, could range between Rs 6.75 lakh to Rs 8 lakh!
On the sidelines of the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 launch, CV Raman, chief technology officer of Maruti Suzuki spoke about how the company plans to comply with the new norms, how it is tackling a rising price point, and competing with the used car market to changing consumer preferences, income levels, and future potential. Watch the video that follows.