India has the potential to become the number one automotive market in the world and small cars have an important role to play in it, Suzuki Motor Corporation Representative Director and President Toshihiro Suzuki said on Wednesday.
In an interaction with reporters on the sidelines of Auto Expo 2023, he also said electric vehicles alone will not be the solution to India's quest for carbon neutrality and the company will explore other technologies such as flex fuels, hybrids and CNG.
Besides, Suzuki said while safety issues have become important for automobiles, there is a need to strictly follow the basic traffic rules and also developing adequate infrastructure to ensure road safety.
"I can see that there can be a time when India would be positioned as number one market (of automobiles) in the world. Maruti Suzuki and Suzuki as a group, we would like to capture this opportunity. We would like to develop technology for providing the right mobility solutions to this market," he said.
While he declined to share the possible timeline for India to reach the top, Suzuki asserted, "When I say India can become the number one, that is from the perspective that India has the potential to become number one, and I see that there is a possibility that India can become number one."
In 2022, India overtook Japan to become the third largest automotive market in the world after China and the US, having sold over an estimated 42.5 lakh units.
On the roadmap for small cars, which has seen a decline in the past couple of years, Suzuki said, "I think, in India still small cars fall into the important category."
The low car-penetration level of cars in India as compared to its overall population provides small cars "the potential to do good in the future".
He cited the example of how India leapfrogged to mobile telephony in the telecom sector, and said this could also happen in the country's auto sector.
"I think, in the future, you might not require big cars, you might require only the small cars. I think it can be only the small car which is going to support the mobility of the people," Suzuki opined.
In Japan, SMC (Suzuki Motor Corporation) has been strong with its small cars "matching to the requirements of the Japanese people", he said, adding, "we are making the same effort here in the Indian market also. We will be supplying the products which cater to the requirements of the local consumers."
Suzuki admitted that due to the delay in bringing SUVs into the Indian market, Maruti Suzuki has lost market share and the company would bring in more products in the segment to regain its share of 50 per cent in the passenger vehicles category.
"We are in the process of taking action and recovering market share..SUV is a boom..but what would be the next boom, we need to watch," Suzuki said, adding that the company would launch its new SUV on Thursday at the expo here.
The small car segment, which is the bread and butter segment for SMC's Indian arm Maruti Suzuki, has been declining with the demand for SUVs rising in India.
On the roadmap for the company's sustainable products in India, he said when it comes to carbon neutrality, one of the options is EV and other manufactures have launched electric vehicles.
"But the solution can't be one...when it comes to launching apt vehicles in India, it should be apt for the Indian market. So SMC does not want to be swayed by EV only option. There are other options such as hybrid, ethanol, flex fuel," he said, adding the company would also expand CNG options in order to provide the right kind of vehicles to meet the requirements of the Indian market.
The group would like to discuss with the Indian government in order to be able to provide the right technology in the march towards carbon neutrality, he added.
On the significance of the Indian operations for SMC, he said, "India is significant for us, not just for domestic sales but also for exports as well. It has doubled in the last five years and crossed over 2.3 lakh (units) last fiscal."
So far this fiscal year, exports from India have exceeded last year's mark and are set for a new record, he added.
"We are committed to expanding exports from India," he said.
Suzuki also said the contribution of Maruti Suzuki to SMC's global business which is around 60 per cent at present could increase further going forward.
Asked about his views on the outlook, he said it was difficult to say due to the ongoing global economic situation, war in Ukraine which led to the rise in energy and commodity prices.