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A file photo of a Maruti Suzuki plant. India does not have regulations to check fuel efficiency or mileage claims. It also does not have crash-testing norms for cars. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Suzuki Motor Corp. said on Wednesday that it had used the wrong methods to test the fuel economy of its cars in Japan, but claimed that these didn’t make the final results very different and that this doesn’t affect cars sold by the company outside its home market.
Although fuel economy, or mileage, is among the most important factors influencing car purchases in India, there are no mandated tests that companies have to carry out. Disclosure of fuel economy details is voluntary in India, although it is usually certified by the government-run testing body Automotive Research Association of India (Arai).
Rashmi Urdhwareshe, director of Arai, said the agency will not immediately seek clarification from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd on the mileage issue.
“We will await their response for the Indian market. These are regulatory matters (concerning Japanese regulations). We will wait for their communication,” Urdhwareshe added.
Japan’s transport ministry ordered widespread checks of industry methods after Mitsubishi Motors Corp. admitted last month that it manipulated fuel economy data for at least four mini-vehicle models, overstating their efficiency.
Mitsubishi Motors president Tetsuro Aikawa and executive vice-president Ryugo Nakao will leave their positions effective 24 June, the company said on Wednesday. Mitsubishi said its management created an environment for fraud, adding to disclosures that the company tested nine vehicles improperly and overstated the ratings of four minicars by as much as 15%.
Suzuki’s revelation on Wednesday, and an apology, came as a result of the checks ordered by the Japanese transport ministry.
Suzuki chief executive officer Osamu Suzuki told reporters in Tokyo that as many as 2.1 million vehicles were affected.
The models that are affected in Japan include Alto, Alto Lapin, Wagon R, Hustler, Spacia, Every, Carry, Jimny, Solio, Ignis, Baleno, S-Cross, Swift, Escudo 2.4, Escudo and Jimny Sierra.
While some of the models carry the same names as those sold in India, the technical specifications are usually different. For instance, Alto and Wagon R are known as Kei cars in Japan, which have an engine displacement of 660cc, while S-cross only sells in petrol variants in Japan and only in diesel variants in India.
Shares of Maruti Suzuki fell 1.22% to Rs. 3,901 on BSE in the afternoon and later recovered to close at Rs. 3,914.20, down 0.89%. The benchmark Sensex declined 0.27% to 25,704.61 points.
Maruti’s shares had opened weaker on Wednesday morning after the company’s Celerio hatchback and Eeco vans failed crash-tests done by the Global New Car Assessment Programme.
Emissions and fuel economy have come under increasing scrutiny from regulators globally after Volkswagen AG admitted last year it used “defeat devices” on 11 million diesel vehicles to lower emissions during tests.
France, which ordered tests on a random sample of about 100 diesel cars last year, has said some vehicles made by Renault SA, Fiat SpA, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd, General Motors Co.’s Opel brand and Ford Motor Co. failed to comply fully with its emissions regulations.
South Korea, which has tested 20 diesel vehicle models, said on Monday it would punish Nissan with a fine and a recall of its Qashqai diesel sport utility vehicles, accusing it of manipulating emissions. Nissan denied the allegation.
In the US, the justice department is investigating Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, over emissions testing.
India does not have regulations to check fuel efficiency or mileage claims. It also does not have crash-testing norms for cars.
A Maruti Suzuki spokesperson clarified that the system of conducting vehicle mileage tests in India is distinct from the one in Japan.
“As part of the emissions test, agencies such as ARAI and ICAT (International Centre for Automotive Technology) report fuel efficiency of vehicles as well. On the basis of these reports, Maruti Suzuki voluntarily declares fuel efficiency of its vehicles.”
The company claims to offer best-in-class mileage for all its models, one of the primary reasons for its success in the Indian market.
Typically, a customer gets far less mileage in real-world driving conditions. According to ARAI, the diesel variant of Maruti Suzuki’s Ciaz sedan is the most fuel-efficient car in the country with a fuel economy of 28.09km per litre.
Dinesh Tyagi, director of ICAT, explained that such figures are arrived at in ideal driving conditions.
Tyagi declined comment on Suzuki’s problems in Japan.
Anant Geete, minister of heavy industries, could not be reached for comment.