Innovating Mobility: Insights from C. V. Raman, CTO, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., on Technology and Sustainability

A file photo of C. V. Raman, CTO, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

1. Maruti Suzuki has a reputation for being a leader in the Indian automotive industry. Can you talk about some of the challenges you face as CTO in keeping Maruti Suzuki at the forefront of innovation and technology?

  • The biggest challenge is to understand the changing preference of Indian consumers and their latent demand. We believe that behind every technology is a latent customer demand.
  • A deeper understanding of Indian consumers and their driving behavior/product usage is at the forefront of technology development at the company. With deeper customer insights, the company develops path-breaking technologies that empower our consumers with technologies that are affordable, aspirational, relevant and at the same time enhance user experience.
  • The phrase “CARE” [C- Customer Centric; A- Aspirational; R – Relevant; E – Experience] communicates Maruti Suzuki’s approach to rolling out new technology for the future.
  • At Maruti Suzuki, we are driven by our passion for democratizing technology to spread the Joy of Mobility and empower our customers, whilst providing superlative driving experiences.
  • Our Endeavour is that technology should benefit the masses and are not limited to a handful.
  • The company’s focus is to offer Safe, Environment-friendly, Comfortable and Connected Technologies to Indian customers. Maruti Suzuki not only provides advanced technologies in its vehicles but strives to provide the technology offering at competitive prices.
  • We at Maruti Suzuki take this as an opportunity rather than a challenge. As engineers, we are always overjoyed when we drive innovations that overcome obstacles. Our endeavor is to transform new product and technology development challenges into opportunities and strive to push boundaries to provide the “Joy of Mobility” to our consumers through our Product and technology offerings.

2. With the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles, what is Maruti Suzuki’s strategy for transitioning to more sustainable forms of transportation? How is your team approaching the development of electric vehicle technology? And what is the company’s plan for EV manufacturing?

  • MSIL, being the market leader, is committed to offering environmentally friendly products in line with the government’s vision of a sustainable future.
  • MSIL is following a “Technology Agnostic Approach” and is working on developing technologies which are relevant for different consumer segments considering their ability to purchase.
  • Some of the initiatives are as follows:
    • Upgrading the existing ICE powertrains
    • Expanding the CNG portfolio (14 MSIL models have factory-fitted CNG option offering)
    • Electrification of Powertrain via Idle start-stop, Mild hybrid and Strong hybrids.
    • Working on alternate fuels to support the government’s focus on biofuels (E85/ E100).
    • Made all vehicles E20 compliant by April 2023.
    • Showcased Wagon R flex fuel prototype at Auto Expo 2023. To launch the same by 2025 in India.
  • In BEV Space, we are equally focused and working to offer products to meet diverse customer requirements.
  • Concept EVX was showcased at Auto Expo 2023 with an expected launch in the Indian market in 2025. MSIL along with parent company Suzuki is developing an EV built on a completely new platform for the Indian market with a range of up to 550 kms.
  • To make EVs affordable for Indian consumers, Local Manufacturing and ecosystem development is our top priority. In line with this intention, Suzuki will be investing 10,440 crore investment in Gujarat for EV Manufacturing and BEV battery plant.
    • 7300 crore for setting up BEV battery manufacturing plant by 2026
    • 3100 crore for EV manufacturing at SMG Gujarat by 2025
    • Additional resources for setting up vehicle recycling plant by Maruti Suzuki Toyotsu in 2025
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3. How important is collaboration with other companies, both within and outside the automotive industry, in driving innovation and improving manufacturing processes for electric vehicles?

  • We live in a very dynamic era where car makers today are collaborating with technology companies to develop new-age solutions.
  • It is very important to explore new synergy and business opportunities through continuous collaboration to drive innovation and make market-relevant products.
  • One such example is the global partnership between Suzuki Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation.
  • The partnership establishes the supply of hybrid and other vehicle technologies between the two companies for the Indian market; enabling both companies to penetrate new segments and have access to new technologies in India and abroad.
  • The two companies have been exploring concrete projects for collaboration in areas including environmental technology, safety technology, information technology, and the mutual supply of products and components.
  • By leveraging the respective strengths of Toyota and Suzuki, both companies aim to offer a wide variety of vehicle electrification technologies to customers for a sustainable, carbon-neutral society in India.
  • Going forward as Electric mobility and Autonomous vehicles come into existence, Software will play an important role. This will enable motivation for collaboration with Tech. companies to innovate new ways of improving customer experience. Co-creation with Tech. companies will become essential.

4. In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards digitalization and connectivity in the automotive industry. How is Maruti Suzuki leveraging these trends to improve the driving experience for customers, and what role is technology playing in this transformation?

  • The global future vision for connected cars and smart vehicles is one where cars feature technology that seamlessly allows systems to interact with smart traffic networks, other smart cars, and smart city infrastructure for enhancing road safety, and lowering congestion, and emissions.
  • Smart vehicles can also provide authorities with vital data for improved urban planning and optimization.
  • We at Maruti Suzuki recognize the significance of connectivity and are committed to incorporating intelligent technologies into our vehicles as and when relevant.
  • Maruti Suzuki vehicles equipped with the state-of-the-art Suzuki Connect enable customers with a wide range of connected features such as Remote operations, Vehicle Status and Alerts, Smartwatch connectivity, Safety Alerts, Vehicle Tracking, and lots more.
  • We have also taken our showrooms to the doorsteps of customers and prospects with our ARENAVerse and NEXAverse virtual platforms. Enabling customers to have a gamified AR and VR experience with new cars via VR headsets or any device of their choice, such as a laptop, phone, etc.
  • Today, backed by customer demand we have used digitalization and connectivity to revolutionize the car buying process. 24 out of 26 car buying steps have been digitalized.
  • In 2020, Maruti Suzuki became the first automotive OEM to offer an end-to-end online car finance facility for customer convenience and comfort with the launch of Maruti Suzuki Smart Finance.
  • With services such as Maruti Suzuki Smart Finance, Maruti’s Rewards Program, ‘MS Chatbot’ or ‘S-Assist’, we have prioritized customer satisfaction while nurturing new-age innovations.
  • This makes a huge difference. 670,000+ potential customers have interacted with the Maruti Suzuki ‘Chatbot’ and 27,000+ bookings have been generated!
  • On a more overarching level, Maruti Suzuki also has an Innovation Programme (MAIL – Mobility and Automobile Innovation Lab in India) which aims to create an ecosystem that will provide a platform to support the start-up ecosystem in India. It aims to support Technology-enabled solutions created by startups to contribute to the betterment of society and the mobility space while building on the pillars of innovation, collaboration, and co-creation.
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5. Safety is a top priority for any automotive manufacturer. What steps is Maruti taking to ensure that its vehicles meet the highest safety standards, and how is your team involved in this process?

  • All Maruti Suzuki vehicles are engineered to the highest standards and meet all current safety regulations with an array of high-tech and robust active and passive safety features.
  • The R&D teams at Suzuki Motor Corporation, Japan have developed a next-generation Global platform “HEARTECT Platform” that is designed with a core focus on safety. Built with advanced and high-tensile steel, the platform has a smooth continuous design for better impact absorption in case of a collision. At the same time, it offers better stability and control for enhanced driving performance and fuel efficiency. The platform is adopted in all future-generation cars globally, including cars developed for India.
  • Maruti Suzuki is committed to offering safer cars to its consumers. In view of this objective, the company took the initiative to upgrade its entire range of vehicles to meet crash and pedestrian regulations much ahead of the defined timeframe.
  • Need to appreciate that considering Indian conditions, Govt. of India mandated certain additional regulations such as driver airbags, ABS, Rear parking sensors, seat belt reminders, and speed alert systems in 2019 apart from crash and pedestrian norms. These regulations are not mandated anywhere else in the world. All Maruti Suzuki models comply with all these regulations by offering technologies which are valued by consumers.
  • We have been awaiting the Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (BNCAP) vehicle safety regulations in India, as safety is of paramount importance to us.
  • The Bharat NCAP system will be an authentic and objective rating system to empower the customer to make informed choices.
  • We will be volunteering to get our cars tested under the BNCAP standards, which are the same as the revised GNCAP protocols, which adhere to global standards.
  • That being said, road safety needs a holistic approach; this is something that Maruti Suzuki has been pursuing for decades with initiatives such as the Maruti Suzuki Driving School, and the Institute of Driving & Traffic Research. These initiatives have been offering world-class driving training facilities in India.
  • Education and awareness are the greatest tools for inculcating a mindset and culture for safe driving behavior, and I cannot stress enough their relevance to truly making India’s roads safer.
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