CV Raman, Executive Director – R&D, Maruti Suzuki India
Sirish Chandran: So this has been done from your team in India? Without any aid from Suzuki Japan?
C V Raman: They (Suzuki Japan) obviously keep looking at it and give advice, but this has completely been designed by our Indian team of six designers, for both, the exterior and the interior. The renderings, computer graphics of the interior, everything has been done by this team of six. While the actual product, we had it made outside.
SC: Is this being made specifically for Maruti Suzuki India?
CV: That depends mainly on how people see and perceive the product. If the product gets a great response, then this might not be just limited to India.
CV: It is nowhere near production phase. It is still a long range concept.
SC: Have you been inspired by the Kwid, considering it was the first hatch with SUV styling cues?
CV: Kwid is a little different. It doesn’t have high seating and is more of a crossover kind of thing. Not really SUV-ish. While our concept gets higher ground clearance and higher seating making it more along the lines of a proper SUV.
CV: It can be adapted to the A-platform (Ignis). Regarding the powertrain, we haven’t yet thought so far into the future till now. Everything you see on the vehicle, for example wheel size, are all concept proportions. The final product won’t see all that.
SC: Has the concept been thought of from an EV perspective?
CV: It hasn’t been thought of from an EV perspective as such, but the possibility of it exists on any of our models. When you need to change a vehicle to EV, there’s a drastic increase in weight. So if you see along those lines, any vehicle would have to be re-engineered.
SC: On the styling front, it’s said that there’s no such thing as ‘family design’ in Maruti Suzuki. Because even this concept looks like no other. Is that a conscious decision? If yes, why?
CV: Yes absolutely, it’s a very conscious decision. There are a lot of companies which believe in ‘family design’ and you can easily make that out by looking at their product. We, at Maruti Suzuki. however, don’t have a ‘family design’ because we build a vehicle for the requirements of a customer of a particular segment based on their needs, design, and user perspective. But there are some elements which have a very prominent ‘S’ mark. Other than that, everything is very different. We believe that each customer of a segment is different who wants to differentiate himself from the rest. And with fifteen products in the line-up, giving a similar look to them may not work for us. Also different sized vehicles demand different design cues. So we feel that it’s better to make each and every product look different, but desirable.
SC: What happens to the dealer network of Maruti Suzuki?
CV: That obviously needs to be worked out. All of these changes are not going to happen immediately, we believe that it is a growing market. We are going to grow from 3.2 to 6 million in 2025 to 8-9 million in 2030. It is a growing market, unlike the stagnant market in the developed countries. Some vehicles will become EVs, some vehicles will become improved IC engines, some vehicles will be having alternate fuels and many vehicles will also be having hybrid units. Electrification of the fleet will happen gradually over a period of time. We also need to look at our supplier ecosystem because the powertrain parts need to be changed along with the battery, motor and power electronics. This will lead into creation of an ecosystem for hybrid as well as electric because they are interlinked in some way. The requirements are different but the technology is similar.
SC: What would you prefer? Electric vehicles or IC vehicles?
CV: I look at mobility as convenience. I have no preference for petrol or diesel. If I want to have a zippy drive and I want to really push to the limits and I have a SUV, I would prefer a diesel engine because I would want to have an exhilarating feel into that. Similarly, for a small car, I may be okay with a petrol engine. So, if it’s a diesel or a petrol or an electric does not matter. What matters is what is it doing to the environment and what is it doing to my own pocket. It is clean running so the government wants that, also it makes sense for me to think if my pocket can afford it or not. We have been brought up with petrol and diesel engines, but there must be a change in future, fuel cells might come as well. We are working on various things with the government to develop various technologies. But that’s hedging because where the technology will go no one knows. Even IC engines are matured over a period of time.
SC: But there is a lot of development still left in IC engines, efficiency and power that you can still get out
CV: There is a limit to that and there has to be some amount of electrification to improve fuel efficiency and ultimately to impact the environment
SC: BS VI will eventually kill the diesel engine, it will make it too expensive.
CV: At the lower end definitely it will make a major dent. The petrol will take over Because no one will want to buy a diesel at two times the price difference. Now its 1 lakh then it will be 2 lakh-2.5 lakh. It will be too expensive. But it wouldn’t make much of a difference at the higher end. Because in the Rs 10 lakh bracket, a difference of 2 lakh is 20 per cent, but for a car that costs forty lakhs, it doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the higher end it will still remain.
SC: So that means you will still remain petrol focused?
CV: We will eventually be making more percentage of petrol engine. So we have to improve the petrol engines and improve efficiencies of that and then also look at other electrification technologies like mild hybrid and strong hybrid and so on and so forth.
SC: In terms of efficiency, don’t you need turbocharging then?
CV: Turbocharging can be done also, but there will be performance issues in the mid-range and before it kicks in. Turbocharging would happen if downsizing engines, but Indian consumers aren’t aware of it. They have this very funny notion about 1.5-litre, 1.3-litre, 1.2-litre versus a 1 litre DITC. Even though the power and torque will be higher in that and you can tune a DITC engine for better efficiency. I think it has more to do with customer maturity.
SC: Isn’t the best way to change the mindset to put these small engines into motorsport?
CV: That’s also one way of doing it because it is already being done in Europe. Suzuki has a 1-litre DICT and a 1.4-litre DICT. Those are the vehicles that people are liking.