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India In-Focus — China’s Great Wall Motor halts $1bn India plans; Ban on single-use plastic; Toyota unveils hybrid car

MUMBAI: China’s Great Wall Motor has shelved plans to invest $1 billion in India and laid off all employees at its operations there after failing to obtain regulatory approvals, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

Without directly commenting on the exit, a Great Wall statement said the company “would like to thank all the members of the Indian team for their contribution,” adding that it would continue to study the Indian market and look for opportunities in the future.

Great Wall’s India entry plan was announced with great fanfare during the country’s biennial auto show in January 2020. India was a key market for the Chinese SUV manufacturer’s global expansion plans and the company had envisioned a plant that would be its biggest outside China.

Months later, after Great Motor began hiring staff in India, New Delhi increased scrutiny of investments from countries with which it shares a land border to deter opportunistic takeovers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crackdown deepened after a border clash between India and China later that year, which has since held up billions of dollars of capital inflow in the auto and technology sectors among others.

The sources, who declined to be named, said that Great Wall laid off about a dozen employees at its Indian business on Friday after telling them it had failed to obtain foreign direct investment approval from the government to buy a former General Motors plant in the country.

India imposes ban on single-use plastics

India on Friday imposed a ban on single-use plastics on items ranging from straws to cigarette packets to combat worsening pollution in the country whose streets are strewn with waste.

Announcing the ban, the government dismissed the demands of food, beverage and consumer goods companies to hold off the restriction to avoid disruptions.

Plastic waste has become a significant source of pollution in India, the world’s second-most populous country.

Rapid economic growth has fueled demand for goods that come with single-use plastic products, such as straws and disposable cutlery.

But India, which uses about 14 million tons of plastic annually, lacks an organized system for managing plastic waste, leading to widespread littering.

India’s ban on single-use plastic items includes straws, cutlery, earbuds, packaging films, plastic sticks for balloons, candy and ice cream, and cigarette packets, among other products, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said in a statement.

PepsiCo., Coca-Cola Co, India’s Parle Agro, Dabur and Amul had lobbied for straws to be exempted from the ban. 

Toyota unveils first mass-market hybrid car

Toyota Motor Corp. on Friday unveiled its first mass-market hybrid car for India, a sport utility vehicle, charting a new course for the Japanese automaker in one of the world’s fastest-growing car markets.

The Urban Cruiser Hyryder SUV, the first car to be built by Toyota as part of a global alliance with Suzuki Motor Corp., will compete with Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motor Corp. in a segment that accounts for a large portion of auto sales in India.

The new model will be an “ultimate game-changer” for the company in India’s electrified auto space, Vikram Kirloskar, vice chairman of local unit Toyota Kirloskar Motor, said at a launch event in New Delhi.

It also reinforces Toyota’s decision to take the hybrid route in developing markets like India, where it says infrastructure is not ready for battery electric vehicles and much of the electricity is generated using coal or other fossil fuels.

The new SUV is expected to be 40 percent to 50 percent more fuel-efficient than a comparable gasoline-powered car and reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent, Toyota said. 

About 90 percent of the car’s parts are sourced from local suppliers — a move that will help it price the car competitively when it goes on sale later this year. 

(With inputs from Reuters)



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