Amid a slowdown in car sales, Maruti Suzuki India has said it will foray into the light commercial vehicles segment, 30 years after an initial plan was shelved when the company started operations.
The country's largest car maker said it will take about two years to launch the LCV, which will take on Tata Motor's Ace, the leader in the segment.
The vehicle will be developed on the platform of parent Suzuki Motor Corp (SMC)'s Carry, an LCV that is sold in markets such as China, Indonesia and Pakistan.
"It was planned in our original agreement (with SMC) in 1982 that the Carry LCV would be launched in India but at that time, due to poor response from the market, it was shelved. Now the situation has changed and the board has given approval to go ahead for launching the LCV in India," Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Chairman R C Bhargava said.
He said: "In the last two years, we have seen a demand for such LCVs growing in India and we think we can offer a superior product in the segment as Suzuki has been doing for years globally."
Bhargava said MSI has not decided on the name of the LCV, which will available in both CNG and diesel variants. "Our engineers are working on adapting the diesel engine that we have licensed from Fiat to be used in the LCV. This will be a pure goods carrier," he said.
MSI Managing Director and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa said the diesel engine for the LCV will be produced in India, although the company hasn't decided which plant will produce the vehicle. MSI is currently setting up its third plant in the country in Gujarat, which is expected to go on stream by 2015-16.
Asked if the LCV would be sold separately or in the same showrooms as its cars, MSI Chief Operating Officer (Marketing & Sales) Mayank Pareek said: "We have not yet decided the strategy for it but in markets like China, Indonesia and Pakistan, Suzuki has both mixed and exclusive showrooms for the Carry."
Bhargava said plans to enter the LCV segment were a part of diversifying its portfolio based on the company's strengths and also in a way "de-risking business" considering the slowdown witnessed in the car market.
In 1983, when the then Maruti Udyog Ltd entered the market, it had opened countrywide bookings for its M800 model and the Carry LCV.
"While the M800 received 1.21 lakh bookings, the Carry had only about 2,000. Then we had decided to drop the plans for launching the LCV," he said.