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|August 18, 1999||
Maruti Baleno priced at Rs 725,000
Byas Anand in New Delhi
Maruti Udyog Limited has decided to price its 1600 cc Baleno at Rs 725,000, making it the costliest car in its stable.
Baleno, which would be launched in November this year, is the first of the three new models that Maruti is rolling out to stave off competition. The rest of the new models -- Wagon-R and the Alto -- would be priced below the Rs 400,000 barrier.
Baleno would be introduced in two variants -- as a luxury sedan and a wagon. The wagon version of the car would sport the Rs 725,000 price tag while the sedan would be cheaper by around Rs 40,000-50,000. The exact tag of the sedan variant is yet to be finalised.
The Wagon-R would be introduced in three variants.
The board of directors of Maruti had recently finalised the launch schedule for the three new models. The Wagon-R, with a 1000 cc heart, would be the second in line to zip down the city streets, by January 2000. And, an upgrade of the existing Zen -- the Alto -- would be the final among the new models. The car is scheduled to be launched in April with two engine variants -- 800cc and 1000cc.
The company has also indicated to the vendors its intention to produce 1,250 units of the Baleno and 3,000 Wagon-R vehicles in the current fiscal. This would be hiked to 8,000 units of the Baleno and 30,000 units of the Wagon-R by 2000-01. It also intends to achieve 70 per cent localisation with the Wagon-R in the second year of production.
The Baleno would be introduced with an indigenisation level of 25.6 per cent. However, this would be raised to 72.35 per cent by 2001-02. Production of the Wagon-R would commence with a local content level of 67.16 per cent, which would later be raised to 70.89 per cent by 2000-01. The company is also confident of attaining 83.32 per cent indigenisation by the third year of production.
The company has also decided to advance the introduction of multi-point fuel injection engine-driven versions of its existing models to January 2000, the sources said. With this, all the existing models in the company's stables would be made Euro-II compliant by January.
''Vendors have already been given the tight schedule and work is on in full swing,'' vendor sources added.
The Baleno, the sources said, would be positioned in the semi-luxury segment to stave off the fierce competition from a stew of new models scheduled to be launched around November.
The Wagon-R is a multi-purpose vehicle and a hybrid between a van and a jeep.
The sources further pointed out that efforts have already been initiated to localise the powertrains for the new models. ''Only the Baleno engine would be imported initially but efforts are on to locally produce it at Maruti's Gurgaon factory.''
MUL is a 50:50 joint venture between the government of India and Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan.
The company had recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade under the revised Indian automobile policy to import completely knocked down and semi-knocked down kits of the Baleno and the Wagon-R.
Maruti has also chalked out plans to progressively invest Rs 5.24 billion for manufacturing these two models. The major investment in this case will be regarding the Wagon-R and is expected to be to the tune of Rs 4.36 billion. These investments are to put in place the manufacturing facilities for the Baleno and the Wagon-R.
In addition, the company is now all set to roll out a new-look version of its popular Zen - the Zen Classic -- by August-end followed by a multi-point fuel injection version of the car in September. The vehicles have already been produced and road-tested and would hit the city streets over the next one month, the sources added.
Although a final decision on the price tag of the vehicles is yet to be arrived at, the sources pointed out that the new-look Zen would put a cost pressure of Rs 10,000-20,000 per vehicle on the company. Besides, preparation of the multi-point fuel injection version would cost an additional Rs 25,000-30,000 per vehicle.
''But we are yet to decide on how much of this is to be passed on to the customers,'' the sources added.
The decision to advance the production of MPFI-engine powered Zen was taken in view of the increasing competition from the new entrants in the segment. ''Besides, we already had the technology at our disposal as we were exporting these cars to Europe. It was just a question of selling the cars fitted with the same kits in India as well.''
The kits for the MPFI version would be imported directly from Denso Corporation of Japan. The orders for the same have already been placed and the new cars are all set to zip down the city streets.
Regarding the new-look Zen, the sources said, it would have some additional features over the existing Zen VX. These include an improved frontal face and a fresh grill.
The Zen is presently available in four versions -- LX, VX, AX and diesel. The LX sports a price tag of Rs 290,000 while the VX is priced at Rs 340,000, and the AX and diesel at Rs 418,000 each.
The MPFI versions of the remaining vehicles from the Maruti stable would be rolled out in January 2000.
Bhaskarudu quits as Maruti MD, Jagdish Khattar in driver's seat
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