In the Indian SUV market, which clocked around 1.2 million units in FY22, the midsize SUV holds a special place. It has a share of 18%, and is growing. In its first serious entry into this space with the Grand Vitara, Maruti Suzuki sold 4,800 units of the SUV in its debut month of September. Deliveries to customers began on September 26, the first day of the Navratri period, considered auspicious by many Indians.
The Grand Vitara also marks Maruti Suzuki’s electrification drive in a way, as it is the first from the OEM’s stable to offer a strong hybrid system. When some of its industry peers are bypassing hybrids, Maruti Suzuki is among a few that bet on the technology. The early market response to the passenger vehicle industry leader’s move points to the consumer readiness to try out the strong hybrid technology as energy-mix for mobility is growing.
The prices for mild hybrid version of Grand Vitara starts at INR 10.45 lakh while that of the strong hybrid begin at INR 17.99 lakh (ex-showroom).
In its first month, 800 units, or 18% of Grand Vitara’s sales, came from the hybrid variant. The share of the hybrid variant in the number of bookings was higher at 40% of about 24,000 units for the Grand Vitara. Shashank Srivastava, Senior ED, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki, told ETAuto that the bookings for the midsize SUV has crossed 60,000.
Srivastava is betting on the Grand Vitara and the new version of the Brezza compact SUV. It topped the SUV sales chart in September by selling 15,445 units helping Maruti Suzuki to regain the lost market share. There has been improvement on that front over the past 5-6 months, but compared to the 42% share it had this time last year, it’s a shade below at 41.7%. “It (Grand Vitara) will help us reach 50% market share,” Srivastava had said earlier.
The Grand Vitara is also the first co-developed product of alliance partners Suzuki and Toyota in India. The variant with the ‘Intelligent Electric Hybrid’ or strong hybrid technology comes with a dual powertrain system using an electric motor and a 1.5-litre engine aimed to deliver better acceleration, performance and fuel-efficiency.
The self-charging strong hybrid SUV features multiple drive modes (EV, Eco, Power and Normal), allowing the Grand Vitara to seamlessly switch between the IC engine and electric drive modes.
To attract customers to the strong hybrid technology in the transition to electric vehicles, Maruti Suzuki announced a ‘special introductory package’ consisting of extended warranty till 5 years/1 lakh km (including the standard warranty terms) and a complimentary Nexa accessory pack worth INR 67,000.
This offer could be the reason for at least some consumers to opt for the Grand Vitara’s strong hybrid variant, but the initial response could also be a reflection of the potential for hybrids in a growing energy-mix for automobiles, mainly passenger vehicles.
“Strong hybrids offer a better bridge to electrification as they can offer users the advantages of EVs without the current hassles of higher acquisition cost compared to ICE vehicles, and sparse charger population,” Ravi Bhatia, President and Director, Jato Dynamics India, and an industry veteran, said.
For Maruti Suzuki, hybrids are part of its ‘Mission Green Million’, which aims to achieve sales of a million ‘green vehicles’, mainly CNG and hybrids, in a couple of years. The Grand Vitara may have started the journey on the right track. Sales review of a longer period will reflect if the market offers a sustainable space for the greener variant.