• Maruti Suzuki garners nearly 23% of its annual sales from diesel cars
  • The carmaker also today announced a hike in prices of some of its models

Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest vehicle manufacturer, today announced that it will stop manufacturing diesel vehicles from April 1, 2020 when the new BS 6 emission norms will be introduced. The high cost of upgrading existing diesel engines to the BS 6 norms propelled the company to take such a decision.

The company will try to focus on compressed natural gas (CNG) and hybrid technology driven vehicles to compensate the vacuum created by the phasing-out of diesel vehicles.

Mint was the first to report on Feb 14, 2019 that Maruti was in talks with its parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation for discontinuation of diesel vehicles from 2020.

According to R C Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, from April next year the company will stop manufacturing diesel vehicles since substantially higher development cost will not make diesel a viable option for consumers.

“We have taken this decision so that in 2022 we are able to meet the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency norms and higher share of CNG vehicles will help us comply with the norms. I hope the union government’s policies will help grow the market for CNG vehicles," added Bhargava.

Apart from that, the company reported a 4.6% year-on-year decline in net profit to 1,795 crore for the quarter ending March 31, 2018 as a result of high commodity and forex costs and increased discounts offered by the company to attract buyers since vehicle sales remain subdued.

The total vehicle sales of the company increased by just 0.4% year-on-year to 4,28,863 units while the net sales or revenue dropped by 0.7% year on year to 20,737.5 crore. The operating margins contracted by 300 basis points due to increase in commodity cost and discounts.

In the full year FY 19, the New Delhi-based company reported 2.9% decease in net profit to 7,500.6 crore while the revenues grew by just 6.3% to 8,3026.5 crore.

According to Ajay Seth, Maruti's executive director, Finance, overall increased discounts offered to customers and commodity costs had an adverse impact on the financials of the company in FY 19 and the company will cut costs in different part of its operations to stabilise the operating margins in FY 2020.

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Berlin: Scientists have identified highly effective antibodies against the novel coronavirus, which they say can lead to the development of a passive vaccination for COVID-19.

Unlike in active vaccination, passive vaccination involves the administration of ready-made antibodies, which are degraded after some time.

However, the effect of a passive vaccination is almost immediate, whereas with an active vaccination it has to build up first, the researchers said.

The research, published in the journal Cell, also shows that some SARS-CoV-2 antibodies bind to tissue samples from various organs, which could potentially trigger undesired side effects.

The scientists at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and Charite - Universitatsmedizin Berlin isolated almost 600 different antibodies from the blood of individuals who had overcome COVID-19, the disease triggered by SARS-CoV-2.

By means of laboratory tests, they were able to narrow this number down to a few antibodies that were particularly effective at binding to the virus.

The researchers then produced these antibodies artificially using cell cultures.

The so-called neutralising antibodies bind to the virus, as crystallographic analysis reveals, and thus prevent the pathogen from entering cells and reproducing, they said.

In addition, virus recognition by antibodies helps immune cells to eliminate the pathogen. Studies in hamsters -- which, like humans, are susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2 -- confirmed the high efficacy of the selected antibodies.

If the antibodies were given after an infection, the hamsters developed mild disease symptoms at most. If the antibodies were applied preventively -- before infection -- the animals did not get sick, said Jakob Kreye, coordinator of the research project.

The researchers noted that treating infectious diseases with antibodies has a long history.

For COVID-19, this approach is also being investigated through the administration of plasma derived from the blood of recovered patients. With the plasma, antibodies of donors are transferred, they said.

"Ideally, the most effective antibody is produced in a controlled manner on an industrial scale and in constant quality. This is the goal we are pursuing," said Momsen Reincke, first author of the research.

Three of our antibodies are particularly promising for clinical development, explained Harald Pruss, a research group leader at the DZNE and also a senior physician at Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin.

"Using these antibodies, we have started to develop a passive vaccination against SARS-CoV-2," Pruss said.

In addition to the treatment of patients, preventive protection of healthy individuals who have had contact with infected persons is also a potential application, the researchers said.

How long the protection lasts will have to be investigated in clinical studies, they said.

This is because, unlike in active vaccination, passive vaccination involves the administration of ready-made antibodies, which are degraded after some time, Pruss said. In general, the protection provided by a passive vaccination is less persistent than that provided by an active vaccination, the researchers said.

However, the effect of a passive vaccination is almost immediate, whereas with an active vaccination it has to build up first, they said.

It would be best if both options were available so that a flexible response could be made depending on the situation, Pruss added.