Maruti Suzuki saw India’s potential long before it became small car central, and is the undisputed market leader in the country of 1.18 billion people. However, homegrown brands and big players like Hyundai are beginning to chip at Maruti’s market share, which has fallen below 50% for the first time ever. It sold 282,488 units from April-July 2010, which is 47.68% of the total market. This is down from 53.13% (440,069 units) achieved in the same period last year.

The downward trend might be reversed come next quarter. This is because the company has boosted its large lineup with a CNG range and the A-Star automatic. Named after the 2008 concept, the latter is what we know as the Suzuki Alto (Alto name is reserved for the fifth-gen Alto, India’s most popular car). Previously only available in manual form, the A-Star auto pairs a 4-speed auto ‘box to the 60 bhp/90 Nm K-series engine. It’s essentially identical to our RM49,888 Alto GLX – so it’s surprising that we got an Indian made car a week earlier than India itself.

Maruti also just introduced compressed natural gas (CNG) tech featuring “intelligent-Gas Port Injection” or i-GPI on five popular models – SX4, Eeco, WagonR, Estilo and Alto. Maruti says that i-GPI cars are safer and offer more power than retrofitted CNG vehicles. All i-GPI cars go through the same quality checks, processes and systems as any car manufactured at Maruti Suzuki plants and get full warranty plus official after sales back up. The CNG cars are about RM3,000 costlier than the normal versions.

i-GPI is a Dual ECU tech that delivers accurate amounts of gas to the engine via separate injectors for each cylinder. Metered CNG quantity is injected into the engine through gas ports, controlled by a dedicated ECU. Each i-GPI model goes through 200,000 km real world tests in addition to over 3,000 hours of bench tests.