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Maruti, Mahindra divided over future of battery-run cars

Divergent views of Mahindra & Mahindra and Maruti Suzuki over the future of battery-technology operated cars raises a big question: is it the hybrid or the full electric vehicle that will be the future sustained-mobility?

business Updated: Nov 07, 2016 10:09 IST
Sunny Sen
Pawan Goenka, executive director of Mahindra.
Pawan Goenka, executive director of Mahindra.(REUTERS)

Divergent views of Mahindra & Mahindra and Maruti Suzuki over the future of battery-technology operated cars raises a big question: is it the hybrid or the full electric vehicle that will be the future sustained-mobility?

The country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki will bet on hybrid technology in India, which means that the cars will run on a mix of battery-technology and fossil fuel, but mostly petrol or diesel – a view very different from Mahindra’s.

“We are betting on electric vehicles, and not hybrid,” said Pawan Goenka, executive director of Mahindra, the country’s largest utility vehicle maker. Mild hybrids, he said, does little benefit to the environment.

On the other hand R.C. Bhargava, chairman of Maruti said, “electric vehicle is a product which cannot possible have a bulk market – at best it is a niche market.”

The two companies’ different views, experts said, might be a reason why Maruti exited the Indian consortium that was developing six electric and hybrid vehicles under the xEV project. “Suzuki’s is going slow and not investing a lot on developing these powertrans, and is spending on conventional powertrans, because it is a relatively small automaker,” said Anil Sharma, principal analyst with London-headquartered IHS Markit.

Maruti’s exit puts the government-supported xEV project in jeopardy. Ford had pulled out of the project in July – at a time when the consortium members were talking of building an eco-system of component suppliers for the cars.

Meanwhile, Suzuki Motor Corp is in discussion with Toyota to share technology. “One should not forget that Maruti is a Suzuki subsidiary… And Toyota is clear that the future is on hybrid and not electric,” said Sharma.