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KARACHI: The 30 year-old journey of the iconic locally assembled Suzuki Mehran 800cc will come to an end from April 2019.

Pak Suzuki Motor Company Limited (PSMCL) on Sept 5 announced the discontinuation of Mehran SB-308 VXR model but did not disclose anything about its replacement. However, market was already abuzz with reports that Alto 660cc will take over Mehran.

In July this year, the company had announced closing down of Mehran VX model production from end of November due to its thin demand as compared to the hot selling Mehran VXR.

PSMCL informed its vendors that the company would roll out 19,247 units of Mehran VXR from September to March 2019 while a total of 4,574 units of Mehran VX would be assembled in the same period.

Mehran accounted for 47,199 units in the company’s overall production of 145,416 vehicles in 2017-18. The car, which continued to sail swiftly amid huge influx of imported 660cc three years old used cars, was popular among all the segments of society and its slightly old models used to be the first choice for buyers who wanted to shift from two wheelers to four. Low cost maintenance and high resale value also kept its demand steady.

It was launched in 1988, replacing the Suzuki FX and since then, the company has only made cosmetic changes in the model rather than a complete overhaul of the look. In 2012, PSMCL upgraded all vehicles including Mehran to Euro II technology.

A Pak Suzuki vendor said many will feel the pinch of closing down of this 800cc vehicle as they were either 50 per cent or 100pc dependent on parts supply to PSMCL. Some big vendors, who were producing few parts, may not face any serious problems.

He said a number of vendors may exit the market as they had not invested and shifted to other models and kept making Mehran parts for three decades.

Those vendors who are already working on manufacturing parts for the new Alto said it is premature to talk about the fate of the upcoming 660cc car as they don’t know about the car price or the company’s marketing strategy.

However, they said the rumour is that PSMCL has kept an attractive mileage for the new car.

The overall production of Mehran in 1995-96 stood at 8,966 units which in 2016-17 reached 38,311 units. According to vendors, the model had achieved 72pc localisation in the last 30 years as compared to other locally assembled cars. However, the company continued to jack up prices three to four times in a year on rupee depreciation despite achieving higher localisation.

Sources said vendors had time and again requested PSMCL to continue Mehran along with the new Alto 660cc and let the car die its own death with the passage of time.

On Sept 5, PSMCL asked its vendors to carry out effective material and production management for smooth production of the remaining vehicles and to avoid any surplus inventory at either end at the time of model discontinuation. At the same time, the company has asked vendors to continue supplying parts to meet spare parts requirement.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018