Maruti Suzuki is set to electrify the compact vehicle segment with an all-new electric hatchback by 2026-’27. The hatchback is likely to be based on the eWX concept showcased by Suzuki Motor Corporation at the Japan Mobility Show in 2023. The upcoming hatchback will challenge market leader Tata Motors’ Tiago EV, which has brought in a lot of first-time buyers into the electric vehicle segment.
Suzuki eWX-based EV for India
Drawing on lessons learned from the Wagon R EV project that did not meet technical and cost targets, Maruti Suzuki has begun work on an all-new EV architecture for compact vehicles codenamed K-EV. The Creta EV rival’s platform is codenamed YY8, and has been derived from the Toyota 40PL global platform.
According to sources, the idea behind multiple platforms is to have appropriate vehicle architecture to deliver optimal efficiency and performance. Unlike the aborted Wagon R EV project, the K-EV will not be based on an ICE platform and is being developed on a ground-up skateboard that will spawn a range of other compact EVs. Though the company has been tight-lipped on future products, what is clear is that as a company strategy, all Maruti Suzuki EVs will be ‘born-electric’ and not ICE-derived, according to CV Raman, chief technology officer.
High level of localisation is key to achieving the tough cost targets set for the K-EV and this could include localisation at a battery cell level too. Currently, Suzuki Motor has set up a battery joint venture plant with Denso and Toshiba for its hybrids and tied up with BYD for supply of blade cells for its upcoming eVX-based mid-size electric SUV, but it is not clear who the battery supplier will be for K-EV.
The company’s first electric SUV is approaching the final stages of market roll-out with the start of production of the model scheduled for Q4 of 2024, with a market launch at the beginning of 2025.
With two different architectures, Maruti Suzuki will be able to offer a wide range of EV options and at multiple price points to ensure higher adoption.
Maruti to contend with Tata Motors in entry-level EV segment
While Tata Motors approximately sells about 10,000 to 15,000 Tiago EVs in a year, the launch of the MG Comet EV could barely expand the market at the entry-level. However, Maruti Suzuki’s highly localised hatchback is set to give impetus to the entry EV segment when it goes on sale.
Suzuki Motor has already announced an investment of over Rs 10,000 crore for the localisation of electric vehicles in India, which will go into both the manufacturing of vehicles and the localisation of cells. The company has plans to introduce half a dozen electric vehicles by the end of the decade and expects 15 percent of its total sales, or about half a million EV sales, by FY31.
As per the product portfolio sketches revealed by Suzuki Motor Corporation in January 2023, various body styles – hatchbacks, SUVs and MPVs – will be rolled out over a five-year period from 2025 to 2030. Electric cars accounted for just 2 percent of the overall passenger vehicle market in 2023, with sales of over 82,000 units. The market has more than doubled in the last year, led by Tata Motors, which has a market share of over 73 percent.
Tata Motors averages about 1,000 to 1,500 units of the Tiago EV in a month, and the price premium between a petrol-powered Tiago and its EV counterpart is about 35 percent. Given the high localisation level, Maruti Suzuki is likely to compete on both price and features, and help expand the market.
EV and ICE models price parity narrowing
Close to Rs 1 lakh crore has been committed by vehicle makers to invest in the electric car space, and an additional Rs 1 lakh crore is likely to be invested from auto parts makers and cell manufacturers in the coming decade.
The government of India, on its part, has offered support in the form of a lower, 5 percent GST for electric vehicles, and this will be further aided by benefits under the production-linked incentive scheme to ensure better accessibility of EVs in the future.
Falling battery prices and higher volumes are likely to make electric car prices come in close parity with internal combustion engine vehicles, believes Tata Passenger Electric Mobility MD Shailesh Chandra. Maruti Suzuki, which is a late entrant to the EV space, may have timed it well this time around so that it can ride the wave, despite the segment facing roadblocks globally.