About 70 percent of large SUV buyers still opt for diesels
Mercedes doesn’t foresee drastic change in fuel preference, unless there is some regulation against diesel
Sufficient demand from die-hard diesel customers
Mercedes-Benz India recently launched its largest SUV – the GLS – in its latest, third-gen avatar. Like the rest of the luxury automaker's mainstream model range in the country, the full-size, three-row SUV continues to be available with petrol as well as diesel powertrains. While many players have exited the diesel segment altogether in the BS6 era, Mercedes remains a stout believer in the potential of the fuel type in our market. We caught up Santosh Iyer, vice president, sales and marketing, Mercedes-Benz India, to get a deeper insight into the company's decision.
Modern-day diesels much cleaner than before
Iyer believes that the one of the primary factors that should ensure a continued demand for diesels is their vastly improved emission credentials in BS6 form. “With the latest technologies, in terms of the emissions, and more particularly when we talk about CO2, the diesels are even better,” he said.
It is known that diesels generally put out lesser carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon emissions than comparable petrols, but their higher outputs of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter have been a major sticking point until now. This, however, has largely been overcome due to the implementation of advanced after-treatment technologies necessitated by the latest regulations. This should help vindicate diesels and ensure continued customer interest in the fuel type, feels Iyer.
Diesels still an attractive proposition for luxury car buyers
With a significant market share, oil burners form an essential part of Mercedes’ India portfolio. In the large SUV segment, for instance, Iyer reported 70 percent of Mercedes buyers opting for diesels. “We don’t see that radically changing for some time,” he mentioned.
Those with a penchant for picking out vehicles with strong performance are known to prefer diesel powertrains for their torquey nature, and such buyers are unlikely to make a switch anytime soon. “We have traditional diesel customers who love the engines just for their nature and they’ve been driving diesels for many (years) of their lives.”
Additionally, fuel economy is another factor that often plays on the minds of even the luxury vehicle buyers. “It (diesel) was always pitched as more fuel efficient. And that’s why the diesel uptake was always high in India, and also in other parts of the world, apart from the torque and other benefits that diesel gives,” explained Iyer. A higher mileage claim is expected to continue being an important USP for diesel models in the country.
Radical shift in fuel preference not expected without government intervention
Contrary to some other players in the industry, the German automaker’s top brass doesn’t foresee a significant shift away from diesels, especially without mandatory stipulations. “The cross shift will only happen with government intervention.” The marketing and sales head said that customers tend to get sensitive of the fuel type and start showing an overwhelming preference for petrols only in the presence of stringent stipulations, like the ban on large-capacity diesels that was instituted in Delhi-NCR in late 2015 for a few months.
However, Iyer believes that the government’s latest move of demarcating BS6 petrol as well as diesel vehicles from their older, more polluting counterparts with the help of a strip on the third registration sticker is something that points away from any intentions of a regulatory move against diesels for the time being. “That gives them (consumers) the confidence that maybe in the future, these cars (BS6 diesels) will not be affected in case of any ban or ruling because the emission values are much better.” This should help maintain buyer confidence in the technology and ensure a sustained market demand for diesels.
Mercedes to remain fuel neutral
The German marque intends to stay ‘fuel neutral’ by having a mix of petrols, diesels and even electrics in its line-up. Iyer elaborated, “I think all fuel types have their own merits and demerits and one cannot back only petrol or only diesel. So ideally this should be left to the consumer to choose and manufacturers should be responsible to meet the norms set by the law of the land.”
All mainstream sedans and SUVs in the carmaker’s India portfolio already boast of BS6 compliant petrol and diesel offerings. Upcoming models, including the A-class sedan and the new GLA, are slated to extend a similar convenience. Mercedes has also lined up its first all-electric SUV – the EQC – for a market debut in India in the coming weeks.