JLR India taps parent for smaller engines to circumvent diesel ban

New Delhi: Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc (JLR), a unit of Tata Motors Ltd, is studying which of its smaller diesel engines can be brought to India as a ban on selling vehicles with diesel engines above two-litre capacity in the National Capital Region (NCR) centred on Delhi has hit sales.

“We already have new engines which are below 2,000cc. We are planning to bring them in,” said Rohit Suri, president of the UK auto maker’s local unit.

“Those engines are available with JLR, but whether they are immediately adaptable to this market is what takes time. Plus, they should be suitable. All models may not be amenable to that. We have started to work on that in the UK,” he said.

With NCR accounting for 7% of India’s auto sales, auto makers have responded in various ways to limit the damage from the court order by introducing smaller diesel engines, launching compressed natural gas, hybrid and electric variants, finding newer export markets for diesel engines and sharpening focus on petrol models.

Suri conceded that sales had indeed been impacted, adding that petrol models now account for a quarter of sales compared with 5% earlier. However, customers continue to prefer diesel models, prompting him to rush to the UK, JLR’s home market, for smaller diesel engines.

According to Suri, legislative changes across the world do not rattle auto companies, but the ban in India had been sudden.

“Here, the change has been sudden and to that extent, it basically upsets our planning cycle a bit. We will have to put a lot of pressure in our systems to expedite it and we are large organizations… production systems will have to be aligned. Spec alignment will have to done to suit India. It is not like vehicles are lying in the yard and you can just say that let us just change it,” Suri said.

Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd was the first to introduce smaller diesel engines to work around the Supreme Court order. Mahindra has fitted its sports utility vehicles such as XUV 500 and Scorpio with a 1.99-litre engine in Delhi, against a conventional 2.5-litre engine that sells in the rest of the country. The ban aims to improve the region’s air quality but has hurt companies with a diesel-heavy product portfolio.

JLR introduced on Monday the petrol variant of its Land Rover Discovery Sport in the country. The 2-litre petrol model delivering a power output of 177 kW will cost Rs.56.50 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the company said in a statement.

Suri said his company advanced the launch of the petrol variant of Discovery Sport so that it does not lose out to competitors in key markets.

“India is a very diverse market with diverse segments and requirements and region-wise, it varies. Therefore, companies are better off in terms of covering both ends of this whole segment. All we have done now with this particular launch is we have just expedited it and brought it forward to ensure that we don’t lose out in certain markets where there are legislative challenges,” Suri said.

Jaguar and Land Rover brands together sell around 3,500 units a year in India, where the luxury car market is led by Mercedes-Benz India Pvt. Ltd, BMW India Pvt. Ltd and Audi India.