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The Indian Automotive space recently went through a major transition period with the BS6 emission norms in the country. The transition from BS4 to BS6 emission norms affected a lot of the industries that are related to the automotive world.
It all started back in the year 2000 when the government of India introduced an emission regulation called the Bharat Stage. The emission standards were based on European emission norms. Also, the Bharat Stage emission norms not only apply to vehicles but for all the equipment which uses fuel to operate.
Fighting the long uphill battle of controlling pollution, the government of India and the Central Pollution Control Board decided to revise the emission norms. As a result, the Bharat Stage (BS-lll) emission standards came into effect from October 2010. Which was later followed by the Bharat Stage (BS-lV) mandated from April 2017.
However, in 2016 the Indian government announced that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI emission standards by 2020. At a later date, the deadline was given to petroleum manufacturers, automotive brands and other auto ancillary providers to make all products comply with the BS6 emission norms by April 1st, 2020.
The BS6 deadline was announced by the government much before the implementation of the new emission norms. Petroleum companies were also instructed by the government to make BS6 fuels available throughout the country to support the transition before the deadline.
Some manufacturers started early by getting their products to BS6 ready form. However, other manufacturers wanted to phase-out their BS4 vehicles nearing the deadline. Most plans to make a smooth transition from BS4 to BS6 were on course during December 2019.
But the actual transition was far from smooth as several factors affected the shift from BS4 to BS6 emission norms. Starting with production, brands had to find a way to make their products greener by using additional components. This increased manufacturing costs that again the automakers had to balance.
Customers looking to purchase vehicles in the Indian market understood the upcoming transitioning in the automotive space. This resulted in low sales across all formats and segments of vehicles which led to one among the biggest automotive slowdown experienced in the country.
The manufacturing challenges and auto slowdown were predicted by the auto brand in the country. However, nobody could predict the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting nation-wide lockdown, where the entire nation had to suspend all business operations and stay indoors.
As the entire nation stayed indoors with zero auto sales during April 2020, the dealerships across the country had huge numbers of unsold BS4 vehicles due to the lockdown.
As a result, (FADA) Federation of Automobile Dealers Association filed a plea to the government to help sell remaining stocks of BS4 vehicles after the BS6 deadline. On March 27, 2020, the Supreme Court of India stated that BS4 vehicles were allowed for 10 days due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting nation-wide lockdown.
However, the issues started when the Apex court claimed that the dealers sold more than 10 per cent of its stock in the said period. After several months of arguments, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of FADA and allowed the provision of RC to all those vehicles for which taxes had been paid and registration numbers were generated as well.
While the automaker sorted out the issues with dealers and their remaining stock of BS4 vehicles, it also had to make the new BS6 compliant model available for purchase in the Indian market.
In due process, most manufacturers discontinued its smaller-capacity diesel power units in the market. The costs involved to make the smaller diesel engines to comply with BS6 emission standards were too high. As a result, most diesel engines including the famous 1.3-litre multijet from Fiat got the axe during the transition.
One of the key players to ditch the diesel units were Maruti Suzuki. The company completely removed the diesel engine offerings across all its models after the BS6 deadline. Maruti Suzuki currently offers petrol and petrol-hybrid and petrol-CNG powertrain options in the country.
Majority of the industry also predicted that the demand for diesel engines will decrease after the implementation of the BS6 emission norms. Much to everyone's surprise, the demand for diesel engines remains strong till date in the country.
Hyundai, Kia, MG, Mahindra & Tata Motors continue to offer their vehicles with a diesel engine. Hyundai and Kia have seen a constant demand for diesel engines on the Creta and the Seltos mid-size SUV models during the BS6 era, respectively.
While most manufacturers have completed the transition into BS6 standards, some are yet to begin their operations to comply with the new emission standards. One such example is Isuzu, who is yet to launch its BS6 compliant vehicle for private use.
The transition from BS4 to BS6 has also brought another huge change in terms of engine offerings. To compensate for the loss of diesel powertrain, brands are offering a turbo-petrol unit as a replacement. Automotive buyers in the country have responded positively to the change and the turbo-petrol units are becoming externally popular in the country.
Coming to two-wheelers, the transition to BS6 has been rather peaceful as compared to the four-wheelers. This is because the conversion of BS4 petrol engines to comply with BS6 emission standards are far easier than diesel units.
Most manufacturers resorted to adding pre-catalytic converters to help with reduced emissions coming from the two-wheeler's exhaust. Other brands took the opportunity to completely revamp its products and launch new motorcycles and scooters in the market.
The transition from BS4 to BS6 also took a toll on the number of participants who took part in the 2020 Auto Expo held during February. Due to the increased costs involved in the transition, a majority of two-wheelers brands did not participate in the country's biggest auto show.
Thoughts About The Transition From BS4 To BS6 Standards In India
As mentioned before, the transition from BS4 to BS6 is among the biggest jumps seen in the Indian automotive space in recent times. While all brand's aimed for a smoother transition, in reality, the shift to greener emission norms turned out to be the toughest in the industry.
The Covid-19 pandemic became the biggest hurdle during the transition to BS6 emission standards. However, as operations reached its normalcy, we are noticing the sales are rising which is improving the market condition.