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Fuel policy to decide LPG cars’ fate

CHENNAI, OCT 13 (AGENCIES)
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Published on 13 Oct. 2012 10:33 PM IST
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The lack of transparency over fuel policy has led to considerable uncertainty over the fate of the LPG variant vehicles currently under production by various carmakers. Top car companies like Maruti, Hyundai and General Motors have multiple LPG variants in their stable. While most continue to produce these models in small numbers, the sales are miniscule and there are no expansion plans. Some automakers are actually waiting for clarity over the fuel policy to phase out LPG models.

Lowell Paddock, president and MD, GM India, said, “We will take a call on our LPG variants depending on the market. We still produce the Spark LPG and Beat LPG variants. If the customer preference for these vehicles is affected severely as LPG prices go up, we will take a call on them. But till then, we will continue to make them. In fact, the new refurbished Spark, which will be launched shortly, will come in both petrol and LPG variants.”

Others like Maruti have already discontinued the Omni and M800 LPG versions though it still makes the WagonR Duo in small numbers. Mayank Pareek, COO-marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki, said, “We have not really expanded in LPG. Of course we have the WagonR Duo in our stable, but the numbers are now quite small although it did take off very well initially. The LPG network has not really taken off, which has affected demand. We’re not phasing out the Duo because it still sells around 1,000 units per month.”

Although it was once hailed as a green alternative to gasoline, availability has always been LPG’s problem. The fuel is currently available in limited markets like the National Capital Region, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune and Chandigarh. It’s also common in Kerala. According to oil industry sources, the price increase and availability concerns faced by cooking gas have also put a question mark over auto LPG.

Some companies like Hyundai continue to bet on LPG as an alternative fuel. The Hyundai India spokesperson said, “Hyundai Motor India continues to see very strong demand for LPG variant passenger cars and does not foresee any change in this industry trend. There is no change in the production plan and the company will continue to cater to the demand for LPG variant passenger cars.” Hyundai launched the LPG version of its Eon small car early this year. It also has the LPG version of the Santro, i10 and Accent in its stable though Accent numbers are very small.

 
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