Thursday, January 25, 2007

Swift joins D-company to challenge Tatas

By launching a diesel Swift, Maruti Udyog has challenged the Tatas for supremacy in the B and C segments, where the Indica and Indigo diesels dominate. In the process, it is also taking competition to the doorsteps of companies like Hyundai and General Motors.

Not only has Maruti fitted the diesel Swift with a 1.3 litre DDiS (common rail diesel technology) engine which is Euro IV compliant, but the company has also managed to price the product aggressively “under Rs 5 lakh” psychological barrier. The company claims that this engine is the smallest 4-cylinder diesel engine for passenger cars anywhere in the world. Maruti is manufacturing the new engine at its Manesar plant, which has initial installed capacity of one lakh units per year but will be scaled up to 3 lakh units with a total investment of Rs 2,500 crore.

There are no other diesel hatchbacks now in India except the Tata Indica; they mostly exist in the larger, sedan cars with prices significantly higher than the Swift diesel variant. So what Swift diesel could do is bridge the gap between petrol hatchbacks and expensive sedans for customers wanting to buy a low-priced diesel car.

Says managing director Jagdish Khattar: “This car is the most fuel- efficient diesel car in India.”

Maruti claims the car can give 21 km per litre on highways and 14-15 km per litre in normal city-driving conditions. The base model called Ldi is priced at Rs 4.68 lakh while the Vdi comes for Rs 4.96 lakh (both prices ex-showroom Delhi).

About the development of this engine, Khattar said that over the past few months it has been localised to 70% but more work needs to be done.

But with Maruti getting aggressive in diesel, is competition sitting pretty? Hyundai is believed to be putting together diesel engines for the Getz and the Santro. The recently launched Chevrolet U-VA may come with a diesel engine and the brand new Dicor engine for the Tata Indica may also become a reality soon. What remains to be seen is whether the customer laps up a lower-priced diesel variant.

Typically, the Indian perception of diesel cars has been vehicles that make noise and require more maintenance than the petrol counterparts. The common rail technology of Swift could well change this perception. Then, diesel is at least 30% more fuel efficient than petrol and this price equation may also lead to a surge in diesel car buyers in the coming months.

Khattar dares Tata in Singur, too

Maruti Udyog’s managing director Jagdish Khattar on Wednesday asked Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata to clarify his allegation that a competitor was behind the Singur furore. “I don’t know which competitor he (Tata) is talking about. Since he has the knowledge, he should tell it.” Khattar added: “We believe in healthy competition.” Last month, Tata alleged that he suspected competitors to be behind the controversy at Singur in West Bengal, where the Tatas are setting up a manufacturing
plant for their Rs 1 lakh car.

Source:- DNA-Money