The Indian arms of the US automobile giants, Ford Motors and General Motors, are both gearing up to have a significant presence in the India's diesel market. General Motors India will launch the Chevrolet Optra TCDi (turbocharged common rail direct injection), which will be the most powerful luxury sedan in its price band. Ford India will unveil a 1.4 litre diesel engine driven Fusion using ‘Duratec’ technology, towards the end of the year.
Clearly the price differential between petrol and diesel has made automobile companies take a fresh look at tapping the diesel engine segment. In January, Maruti Udyog Ltd, which had hitherto remained a petrol engine player, entered the market with Swift diesel.
"We are in the final stages of bringing the newest member of the Optra family to the market. It will be manufactured at our Halol plant and should reach Chevrolet retailers next month," General Motors India (GMI) vice-president P Balendran said.
"We will be drawing on the technology deployed in Ford Fiesta diesel. The customer will have the refinement, fuel efficiency and performance of the petrol engine vehicles," Arvind Mathew, Managing Director and President, Ford India said.
He agreed there had been a discernible shift towards diesel in recent years with advancement in diesel technology and spurt in global oil prices. "Initially about 25 per cent of our customers preferred diesel engine Fiesta. Now 75 per cent of the buyers opt for Fiesta," he added.
The new Optra will utilise second-generation common rail technology, in which diesel fuel is injected at a very high pressure of 1,600 bar through a multi-step injection process. This results in more efficient combustion, delivering great performance.
GM India launched the Aveo sedan, SRV and Aveo U-VA hatchback as part of the Chevrolet India Revolution in 2006. The automaker has further expanded its line-up of vehicles this year with the roll out of its mini car Chevrolet Spark.
As for the small car segment, Ford's Mathew remained guarded on the question of whether his company was entering it. "We continue to look at below Rs 4 lakh and above Rs 8 lakh segments," he quipped, ruling out any time frame for Ford's entry.
He said the company had no plans to undertake any major expansion at the existing facility in the outskirts of Chennai. The company has capacity to manufacture 60,000 units. Ford India sold 42,000 units in 2006.