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Is Maruti Planning A 660cc Car For Rural India?

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Maruti Suzuki, India's largest car manufacturer, has recently concluded a survey with its dealers to assess the likely demand for a 660 cc car in the Indian market.

The survey which spoke to a cross section of more than 200 of Maruti dealers concluded that the vehicle will be in demand only in rural India. Urban buyers/dealers were not enthused by the prospect of a 660cc petrol vehicle. Maruti conducted the survey 6 months ago, but dealers say it is yet to provide feedback on whether or not it has any plans to launch the car in India.

Widely known as Kei or the ‘K’ cars in Japan, the 660cc engine petrol cars attract a lower tax of just 3 per cent —  against 5 per cent for higher capacity cars —  in the Japanese market to encourage use of smaller cars in the country. Cars such as Daihatsu Motor Co.'s Sonica, Suzuki's new Cervo and Mitsubishi's stylish i minicar come fitted with the 660cc engine in Japan.

“The 660cc engine even if it is brought to India, will be modified in a vehicle in accordance with the Indian market,” says a dealer.

For long, Maruti Suzuki has denied it plans to launch the 660cc cars in India, saying that such a project would be unviable in the country. Maruti's smallest car in India is the 800cc petrol Alto. “Even if the 660cc engine were brought to India, the price differential with the 800cc Alto possibly will not justify buyer interest in such a vehicle,” says a company official.

Maruti incidentally has been struggling with a slowdown in the market, besides increasing competition from even fringe players like Renault and Honda, who have  eaten into the market share of Maruti’s most successful models like the Swift Dzire and the Ertiga.

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