Tata Motors, the country's biggest commercial vehicle maker, is working on reducing the engine size of its diesel vehicles to circumvent the sales ban imposed on diesel engines bigger than 2000 cc in the Delhi National Capital Region.
The Mumbai-based company is looking to downsize engines to below 2,000 cc (2 litre) for its models from its sports and utility vehicle portfolio to be able to resume sales in areas affected by the Supreme Court-imposed ban.
Tata Motors will thus be following in the footsteps of rival Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), which launched a 1999 cc diesel engine that powers the Scorpio and the XUV500. The launch which took place in January allows the UV market leader to resume sales of the two models in Delhi.
When asked if Tata Motors would be looking at downsizing its engines, Tim Leverton, president and head, advanced and product engineering, Tata Motors, said, ''We are working on it because it is the right thing for us to consider. We cannot say when it is going to come about, but we are certainly getting ready to deal with that."
In December the Supreme Court banned sale of all diesel vehicles in Delhi-NCR having engines more than 2 litres till 31 March. Among the companies affected by the ban are Mahindra & Mahindra, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors (See: SC bans new diesel-driven luxury cars, SUVs in Delhi).
Mercedes Benz India chief Roland Folger had anticipated just such a development when he suggested earlier this month that the ban on sales of vehicles with over 2,000 cc engines was misconceived as manufacturers would simply make slightly smaller engines of say 1,900 cc, which would make little difference to the emission levels. ( Petrol emits more CO2 than diesel: Mercedes India chief).
Downsizing technology is, however, not new to Tata Motors, the maker of the Nano, Indica and Safari. The company has used this technology to develop a new 1 litre diesel engine and a 1.2 litre petrol engine for the yet-to-be-launched Zica hatchback (which incidentally it is renaming after the outbreak of the Zika virus epidemic).
''If you look at all our engine strategy recently we have exploited downsizing technology quite strongly. Our new gasoline engine 1.2 litre is from downsizing technology. The engine in Zica has replaced a 1.4 litre diesel in our older cars with a 1 litre, 3-cylinder diesel which has the same power and torque but much better fuel efficiency," said Leverton.
Tata Motors showcased four new passenger vehicles at the recent Auto Expo held in Greater Noida. Of this only the Hexa, a multi-seat utility vehicle, carries a diesel engine of 2.2 litre size and therefore is ineligible for sale in Delhi at present.
All the four vehicles are expected to hit showrooms over the next 12 months. Presently six Tata Motors models, Aria, Movus, Safari, Safari Storme, Sumo Gold and Xenon are affected by the ban.
''The vehicle density in Delhi is about quarter compared to that in Mumbai but the air quality in Delhi is twice as bad. There is a whole range of issues at play here. Delhi is a specific issue and the air quality in Delhi has 2-3 elements. We understand the need to reduce emissions," added Leverton.
Meanwhile M&M has started sales of the Scorpio and XUV500 in the national capital. Till a month back the company was in the process of refunding the booking amount its dealers had taken from customers for buying vehicles including the two SUVs.
Speaking on the sidelines of the announcing the third quarter results Pawan Goenka, executive director, Mahindra & Mahindra said, ''The response has been very good (for the Scorpio and XUV500) but it is too early to say as the dispatches began only a week back. We have many dealers who have placed orders for it."
M&M's six affected models used to generate 1,000 units a month from the Delhi-NCR area prior to the ban. Though Tata Motors is presently not as strong as M&M in the UV segment the focus will shift to mini and large SUVs over the course of 1-2 years.