Mumbai: Luxury-car manufacturers are driving the change when it comes to bringing in cleaner and greener vehicles to India, to help address the country’s increasing pollution challenge.
At least half a dozen zero-emission, pure electric cars and SUVs, such as the Porsche Taycan, Mercedes-Benz EQC, BMW ‘I’ brand, Audi E Tron, Jaguar IPace and the Nissan Leaf, are set to hit the Indian roads in the next couple of years.
Also in the queue are a dozen hybrid vehicles, which have a 25-50% lower carbon footprint compared with conventional vehicles. This enthusiasm of global automakers is driven by the introduction of a rule that allows each manufacturer to import 2,500 vehicles a year without the need for homologation, which is an expensive affair.
The policy, announced in September last year, also opens up an opportunity for the automakers to bring in other high-performance cars like the AMG from Mercedes-Benz, RS from Audi and M cars from BMW, as they don’t have to test these vehicles locally before launch.
They, in fact, have already started taking advantage of this. Mercedes-Benz introduced its V-Class multipurpose vehicle in India within three months of its global launch.
The German company is exploring the possibility of importing multiple models which weren’t part of previous plans, Mercedes-Benz India managing director Martin Schwenk told ET.
Under the new rule, certification of the vehicles done at their country of origin would be enough to sell here. Previously, only vehicles that were valued upwards of $40,000 and having engine displacement of more than 3 litres for petrol and 2.5 litres for diesel were allowed to be imported without homologation.
Automakers spend Rs 2-4 crore to launch a model in the Indian market after local certification. This cost and the relatively small market had made companies reluctant to bring high-performance vehicles here. Given that the manufacturers are now considering importing a couple of dozen models across them, the new rule could potentially help them save up to Rs 100 crore on homologation itself.
The new import rule allows luxury-car companies to bring their latest offerings and niche segment cars to India, said Charles Frump, managing director of Volvo Car India. It not only cuts down on the homologation cost, but also reduces the waiting period for car launch in India post their global roll out, he added.
The Swedish automaker plans to launch four plug-in hybrid vehicles in India in the coming year, and Frump said the regulation would help the company expand this portfolio that he considered as the ideal path for India towards full electrification.
Audi India head Rahil Ansari said the German automaker would bring in models like the Q8 and E Tron in the coming years.
“Audi India is ready to launch its all-electric model, the Audi E Tron which will be perfect for the Indian market requirements once the infrastructure is conducive. This shall hopefully happen by 2020 latest, if not earlier,” added Ansari.
The move to electrify vehicles has gathered momentum the world over. Mercedes-Benz will be introducing more than 10 battery-powered vehicles in the next three-four years, whereas rival Audi has committed to bring in a dozen EVs by 2025. The revised policy in India will ensure a majority of these high-tech cars make their way into India very close to the global launch.
According to Schwenk of Mercedes-Benz, big cities would lead in EV adoption, and infrastructure and government regulations would move in tandem.