The union minister of road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, urged automobile companies on Friday to diversify their businesses to alternative fuels and electricity-based public transport.

He was addressing CEOs of major auto giants—including Maruti Suzuki, Ford, and Honda—at NITI Aayog’s global mobility summit on Friday,

“When the present business is doing well, you don’t want to diversify. But I urge you to actively think about diversifying into the public transport sector, and focus your research and innovation efforts in this direction,” Gadkari said. “If the present business has demand, no one wants to diversify anywhere.”

He pointed out that private vehicles are proliferating rapidly on Indian roads and highway expansion cannot feasibly keep pace with this growth. “We, therefore, need to encourage people to shift to public transport, and for this we have to put in place systems that are efficient and convenient, comfortable and safe,” he said.

He also appealed to the auto sector to shift to electricity or alternative fuels like ethanol, methanol, bio-diesel or hybrid in order to bring down the huge cost of petroleum imports.

“Hybrid, electric and bio-fuel are important. At the same time, the existing manufacturing is also equally important. By rules and regulations, we are not going to create any obstacles for auto companies,” he said.

“The government is committed to developing all kinds of fuels–anything that brought import-substitution, was cost-effective, environment-friendly and indigenous.”

Gadkari feels that the established industrial capacity of automakers can be used to make new machines in order to diversify into alternative means. “But it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. What will come first?”

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