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Maruti to build Suzuki’s first people-mover

Mover, people: R3 Concept will be a reality on Indian roads in a year.

Suzuki’s first people-mover is under development in India – and could come here

3 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIA could be among the future export markets for the production version of Maruti Suzuki’s R3 Concept, the first vehicle wholly designed and developed by the Japanese small-car specialist’s booming Indian subsidiary.

First revealed at the 2010 Delhi motor show last January, the R3 seven-seater is Maruti Suzuki’s first clean-sheet vehicle and has now been confirmed for release in India in early 2012.

Although the three-row, five-door MPV is expected to become one of Maruti Suzuki's top-selling domestic models, company sources told GoAuto it could also be upgraded to meet international safety and emissions standards “within a year or so” of its release in India, opening the way for exports to right-hand drive markets such as Australia.

However, Maruti’s first ground-up vehicle would require more extensive use of high-strength steel, a full compliments of safety gear including airbags and electronic stability control and engines that meet Australia’s current Euro 4 emissions standard before it could be sold here.

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“Australian safety standard is too high,” said Maruti Suzuki’s general manager of global marketing, Rajesh Singh, who added that although the domestic-spec R3 may not meet Australian Design Rules, pressure from Suzuki HQ in Japan could lead to an export version for high-spec markets including Australia.

Mr Singh would not rule out building a version of the R3 for export markets like Australia using the same platform, but said a global-spec iteration would make the final product between 25 and 30 per cent more expensive.

“The basic design has to be first Australian, then Indian,” he said. “Engineering the car from scratch for the full world market would add to our cost in the Indian version.”

The production R3 is expected to emerge at this year’s Delhi show and will be available with either 1.2-litre petrol and 1.3-litre turbo-diesel engines powering the front wheels only.

Both engines will be matched to a manual transmission for domestic consumption, but it’s not yet clear whether an automatic transmission version, which would be crucial for an Australian version, will be forthcoming.

As with airbags and stability control modules, Maruti Suzuki currently imports automatic transmissions for its vehicles in India, which is predominantly a manual market.

Mr Singh said the R3 nameplate will not be seen on the production vehicle, which will also dispense with the concept’s rear-hinged rear doors and futuristic glass tailgate.

The R3 is Maruti’s direct response to Toyota’s relatively agricultural Toyota Innova, an affordable people-mover based on the ladder-frame chassis of the Toyota HiLux and built in both Indonesia and India.

Suzuki’s market share in Indi, where Maruti currently builds a range of Suzuki-designed and engineered products at its two plants near Delhi, has fallen from more than 55 per cent a couple of years ago to about 45 per cent.

Last year the company built more than one million cars, including all examples of Australia’s Alto.

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