The Maruti 800 and Alto, India’s bestselling car models, are set to drive into the sunset as Maruti Suzuki is working on a replacement for the 800cc cars to bring in a more contemporary and fuel-efficient model.
Shinzo Nakanishi, MD of Maruti Suzuki, said that the told work is on to bring out a replacement for the two blockbuster models, and the new model could be expected in the next two years. "Someday we have to change... Their replacement model is under development," Nakanishi said, at a time when the carmaker is facing stiff competition.
He said the two models had been in India for a "long long time" and perhaps required tuning to present-day requirements. "The new model will have a more contemporary shape, although it will also sport an 800cc engine. And Maruti and Suzuki engineers will try to ensure high fuel efficiency."
The Maruti 800, which has been phased out from the top metro cities due to new stricter emission norms, and the Alto 800 have been game changers for the Indian car industry. Their affordable pricing and comfortable rides helped them emerge as the most preferred brands in the Indian car market.
However, with the car buying population getting younger and rivals coming out with newer products like Hyundai’s Eon and Tata Motors’ Nano, the company feels there is a need to bring in a fresher version. Nakanishi, however, said that the AltoK10 (1000cc version of the Alto) would continue to sell in the market. "Who knows, we may also decide to continue with the Alto 800 and let the market take a call on its future."
Though he refused to give further details on the model, a model change would certainly cost upwards of Rs 550 crore. Maruti has been working on a future strategy to challenge the onslaught from newer brands, and a change in its best-sellers will be keenly awaited. While the Alto 800 still continues to be the best-selling car, Maruti wants to come out with new models that reflect - among other things - the changing demographics in the car buying.
Nakanishi said while the new model will be aimed mainly at the domestic market, Maruti would also position it overseas, in non-EU regions like Latin America, north Africa and Asian countries. The AStar compact will continue to remain as the main export model for the European region. Maruti is making attempts to make its presence felt beyond small car to newer segments.