Even as the world takes to less-polluting and thriftier hybrid cars, these multi-fuel vehicles have not captured the imagination of Indian customers. At least, not yet.
Toyota’s Prius, for instance, the runaway leader in the segment, has found a paltry 163 buyers in the country since it was introduced in January 2010.
Worldwide lat year, Toyota sold 1.36 million (that is 14% of its total sales) hybrid cars. And early this month, the Prius' sales worldwide crossed 3 million since its introduction in 1997.
The Indian car buyer, however, is not willing to shell out a 25-30% premium to own a gasoline-plus-electric drive sedan, even if it yields a 45 kilometres per litre mileage. With significant customs duty, the Prius costs Rs 29.59 lakh in India.
Honda, the first car maker to launch a hybrid in India four years ago, sold just 60 units of its Civic hybrid at the original price of Rs 21.5 lakh, before slashing it by Rs 8 lakh to get rid of the 240-unit inventory.
“In India, there is no propensity to pay more for a hybrid or electric car although they are less polluting and more fuel-efficient,” said Kumar Kandaswami, senior director, Deloitte India. “With conventional fuel price going high, more people will find alternative fuel-run cars attractive. However, we are not going to see any significant demand for hybrid cars.”
Meanwhile, sluggish demand notwithstanding, the government wants auto makers to start localising hybrid car production.
The Centre had given concessions for the import of parts for hybrid vehicles, and has also proposed a Rs 13,000 crore investment over the next six years to boost the industry, while urging car makers to bring in as much, or more.
Toyota, which sells 19 hybrid models globally, is said to be exploring local assembly options for some of of these vehicles.