Maruti Suzuki India Ltd is looking at reintroducing an old favourite, the Gypsy, in a new avatar. The new-generation Gypsy will be aimed at the rapidly growing market for sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, in the country.
“That is the homework that we have taken up that how do we invent the next-generation Gypsy. We have already started some project (in India) but I cannot say anything at this moment,” Kenichi Ayukawa, managing director and chief executive officer of India’s largest car maker, said in response to a query about Suzuki’s off-roaders Gypsy and Jimny.
“First we have to concentrate here about how we are going to develop that kind of a vehicle, SUV, that becomes popular. We expect to provide such kind of a vehicle,” Ayukawa added.
When it was launched in 1985, the sleek but still rugged lines of the Gypsy made it an instant hit, although that popularity never really translated into massive sales.
The numbers and the ubiquity came when law-enforcement agencies around the country and the armed forces began adding the SUV, originally based on the Suzuki Jimny, to their fleets.
The more agile, petrol-driven Gypsy was preferred over the slower, diesel-driven vehicles that had until then been the mainstay of the police and the armed forces.
But the sales of the Gypsy started to dry up as India upgraded to Bharat Stage IV emission norms. Its sale in the open market was stopped as Maruti decided against upgrading the vehicle to meet stricter norms.
Maruti continues to supply the vehicles to the armed forces but only against orders.
In fact, when the Indian Army sought bids for the 800kg general service vehicle category in 2012-13, Maruti didn’t participate as it did not have a product that met the requirements such as airbags, anti-lock braking systems and power windows. Mint reported this in April 2013.
Maruti’s Gypsy sells in the 500kg general service vehicle category.
In 2017, Tata Motors bagged a contract to supply 3,192 units of its Safari Storme 4×4 model to the Indian Army, under a new category of vehicles named GS 800 (General Service 800).
Ayukawa, however, said that he would need to expand the expertise of his company in engineering to look after such models.
“Right now we have 16 models and once we bring that kind of model we have to take care of them and also need to expand our engineering capability and capacity as well. These things we have to develop. As of now, we have 1,500 engineers and we plan to expand further more to take care of the new vehicles,” he said.
If indeed Maruti manages to introduce a vehicle on the lines of the Gypsy, it would help the company bolster its presence in the SUV segment where it has made significant inroads since the company started selling its compact SUV, the Vitara Brezza, in 2016.livemint