Four years ago, a tweet by Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had set the cat among the pigeons in India’s automobile industry. “My colleagues — Prakash Javadekar, Anant Geete, Dharmendra Pradhan — and I have taken the unanimous decision to leapfrog from Bharat Stage (BS)-IV to BS-VI directly from April 1, 2020,” read the post.
Four years since, a lot has changed. Automakers in India have nearly completed the onerous task Gadkari had chalked up.
In his address to industry leaders at the AutoExpo in Greater Noida, Gadkari, who has often pulled up automakers for showing resistance in complying with the government’s regulations on emission and sustainable mobility solution, was all praise for the industry. “I would like to thank the industry for its efforts in leapfrogging to BSVI in record time. I was tough on you. Many of you had reservations. But all of you cooperated. I can see you are about to succeed in a very challenging mission,” he said.
Amid a dawdling economy that has put India’s auto sales in reverse gear, automakers are ready to take the leap from April 1 and transition to the strict emission regime.
Martin Schwenk, CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, poses with the V-Class Marco Polo | Photo: Sanjay K Sharma
Over the past four years, automakers and their suppliers have made a combined investment of more than Rs 10,000 crore in the switchover. The switchover is set to increase prices of automobiles across all segments and mount further pressure on the already slothful sales.
Shahrukh Khan at the unveiling of the new Creta by Hyundai Motors | Photo: Sanjay K Sharma
Gadkari said the government is fully cognizant of the industry’s contribution in India’s manufacturing growth and the fact it’s the biggest employment generator. He said electric vehicles (EVs) have strong growth potential. “I am confident that in times to come, India’s automobile industry will be the No. 1 exporter and manufacturer of EVs,” he said.
The confidence reposed in the industry was in stark contrast to his remarks in September 2017. “Switch to clean vehicles or get bulldozed,” he had warned the industry.
His comments on Thursday come against the backdrop of the Centre’s consistent policy push for EVs. After initial resistance, two-wheeler makers and passenger vehicle makers are firming up plans and ready to launch EVs — many of which are on display at the Expo.
The Renault Future Electric Vehicle SYMBIOZ | Photo: Sanjay K Sharma
Updating on the scrappage policy, Gadkari said, “I have cleared it,” adding it will be a blessing for the industry, as all the copper and aluminium imported can be substituted by smelting the scrap.
As the Expo opens to the general public from Saturday, one question hangs heavy: Will the new launches be able lift sagging customer mood, essential to recovery from the slowdown’s vice-like grip?