The BS VI conundrum

The big news last month has to revolve around a subject that we will be hearing
and experiencing more and more as the days and weeks and months pile on. The
new BS VI legislation due to be mandated on April 1, 2020 will mean a lot of
issues need to be cleared at least a few months before that date and this time
around the Supreme Court as well as the other authorities monitoring the
scenario have clearly mandated that not a single non-BS VI vehicle can be sold
after march 31, 2020!

This puts the OEMs in a big bind, especially those like Hero MotoCorp and Honda
Motorcycle & Scooter India Ltd. who in their zeal for bragging rights as the one to
lead have major inventories stockpiled even as we speak, some attribute that
both of them have over a couple of months production volume lying in
stockyards all across the land. While we have been here before as well (and
which is a symptom of our looking at wholesale numbers rather than retail as
any self respecting market process should be but that’s another story
altogether), I think that BS VI will bring in its wake a certain price increase
(logically) but the OEMs are worried that consumers would only want to buy
bikes at the lower rates in the last quarter of the BS IV mandate and as such they
do not know how to resolve this slightly touchy issue.

I say that by now the OEMs shouldn’t hide behind this touchiness or display such
tetchiness and they should work as leaders to instil discipline in their way of
marketing and sales while also having the gumption to begin offering BS VI
compliant bikes from January 2020 itself. The trouble is that the government
says that BS VI fuel would be present all over India by April 1, 2020 but to kick
start anything on All Fools’ Day in itself is a tricky aspect! This date to be adhered
to is wrong because the oil PSUs need to have the fuel all over the nation earlier
and I hope this battle of wits between BS VI compliant tech and a lack of BS VI
fuel shouldn’t derail the noble cause of aiming to have a cleaner environment.

The onset of the BS VI rules will mark a paradigm shift in the Indian automotive
industry and one which it is geared to sustain and follow. However, the new
electromobility measures NITI Aayog has put forth asking for all OEMs engaged
in manufacturing bikes with IC engines upto 150cc to convert to electric
propulsion by 2025 has been met with derision in most quarters though not
dismissed outright and this isn’t because the industry can’t meet the norms or
convert to them but just that the nation and its consumers have more to lose
without a proper road map outlined. If it is shock treatment that the government
thinks our lethargic inward looking, money-minded OEMs need then it has got it
only partially correct but to me personally the biggest losers would be
consumers and the GDP. Let’s hope better and clearer thought emerges from all
sides to begin a proper and time bound debate rather than the diktat issued.

The article first appeared as the Editorial, Fast Bikes India – July 2019

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