Speaking at industry body SIAM’s 61st Annual Convention, the veteran industry leaders wondered if contribution of the auto industry towards India’s growth is being recognised and lamented that cars seem to be still considered as luxury, that only the rich could afford.
“We have been going through a situation where this industry has been declining over a long period of time,” said Bhargava, Chairman of the country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India.
Earlier in the day, highlighting the achievements of the auto industry Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said, “It will be impossible for India to grow at high rates for a long period of time without the automobile sector being the key driver of India’s growth.”
“There have been a lot of statements made about the importance of the automobile industry but in terms of concrete actions, which would reverse the decline, I haven’t seen any action on the ground,” he said.
Bhargava further asserted, “I’m afraid words don’t get us very much in the terms of extra sales but you need concrete action to make this happen.”
High tax structures, additional costs in order to meet new emission norms and safety norms have led to increase in cost of automobiles, thereby making them unaffordable for consumers, he said.
“I don’t think the car industry would revive either with ICEs (internal combustion engines) or with the CNG, biofuels and such things or EVs unless we address the question of affordability of cars for the customer,” Bhargava asserted.
Expressing similar views, TVS Motor Company CMD Venu Srinivasan said a two-wheeler which is “the basic mode of transportation for the country” is being taxed at 28 per cent GST, the highest and at a level equal to that of a luxury product. The automobile industry, which provides direct and indirect employment to 30 mn people, has moved from importing and assembling to designing and making in India with both homegrown firms and MNCs making large investments in design infrastructure
However, he wondered, “At the same time, I would like to say, are we being recognised? Is the automotive industry being recognised for what it has contributed to employment, to revenues and to earning of foreign exchange?”