Kenichi Ayukawa, Managing Director & CEO, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd talks about electric vehicles, Nexa, the changing demands of the Indian customer and more. Excerpts from his conversation with Fortune India at the Auto Expo 2018:
What according to Maruti Suzuki is the future of mobility in India?
India has a lot of potential and we have a lot of opportunity to grow. In the next decade, the Indian market can overtake China. We have the opportunity to grow a very large market. To achieve that, we have to provide this market a good product both on the safety and emissions market. Also, Indian people rate cost and affordability highly which is why we have to keep this in mind while providing a product for this market.
How important has the Nexa sub-brand been when it comes to improving the sales performance of your premium segment cars?
I think before Nexa’s implementation, we had some hesitation about starting the brand. But after its implementation we are getting a very good response from customers. Also we encourage the existing distribution channel also change their face to appeal to younger people. By doing this we will be able to cater to all sets of customers through our two distribution channels.
Maruti Suzuki has been very patient when it comes to introducing electric vehicles. Will that change going forward?
Our parent company already announced that in 2020 we will launch the first electric vehicle. But before that, we have to study the market about which kind of vehicle are the people expecting and what kind of function will be necessary. Based on this we will have to develop the product. But 2020 is only two years from now. People say two years is a long time but from our perspective it is a very short time. We have to cater to the safety of the vehicle because in a sense the lithium-ion battery can be a very dangerous component. Alongside this, we have to ask the government to prepare the infrastructure like charging stations. At this moment there is almost nothing.
How feasible is the government’s target of selling only electric vehicles by 2030? What are the big hurdles in achieving that target?
Everyone knows there are a lot of unknown factors. But one by one we have to clear them otherwise we won’t be able to find a good solution. Now, all concerned people in the industry and the government have to clear some of these unknown factors.
Given that this space is in a transformation with regard to policies, are you happy with the direction that has come so far from the lawmakers of the country?
If you look at the current situation, we cannot find the right solution for electric vehicles in terms of cost and safety. We have to try to fix such problems as soon as possible and that is very important because the government is planning a very aggressive programme for electric vehicles. But in order for their plan to be successful, a lot of policy issues need clarity. In a sense, there are difficulties. But we have to overcome them.
What do you expect from 2018?
As far I look at the market, comparing it to last year which was hit by demonetisation and people hesitating to buying cars, this year I feel customer demand will become strong. I think 2018 will be better than 2017 for the overall market.