Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Rise Of Mahindra Truck Bus An Interview With Vinod Sahay

Vinod Sahay

The current HCV space is highly monopolistic, leaving virtually little room for upcoming entrants to create a mark. However, Vinod Sahay, CEO, Mahindra Truck andamp; Bus Division, has a plan - to become a credible number 3 in the space, courtesy some innovative products that are the need of the hour. We caught up with him at Auto Expo 2018 to dive deeper into the company's plans.

1. MTB has had a successful run in the CV market against established players who have been in the market for decades. What has been MTB's recipe for success so far?

We have tasted immense success post the launch of the Blazo. The Blazo has been our redefining moment. We have been in this (heavy trucks) segment for 7-8 years and before that in the LCVs segment. In the heavy trucks segment, we are comparatively a new entrant. We entered in a JV with Navistar initially but now we are 100 percent Mahindra company. Given the challenges in the heavy vehicle segment, we paid attention to what our customers had to say. Armed with these inputs, we went back to the drawing board and in February 2016, we effectively relaunched the company with the introduction of the Blazo.

We saw that the heavy truck industry was notorious for overloading, but we could see this practice coming to end with the overload penalty looming large. There was a huge premium on fuel efficiency that was already there but in the rated load regime, the demand for fuel efficient trucks would become much higher.

India is undergoing a major transformation all across; be it the service sector or the mobile industry or the way you book airline tickets, everything is changing. Trucking industry cannot remain where it was and trucks cannot be what India has seen in the last couple of decades. The question is not whether, but when the Indian trucking industry will move to where the European market is. With that in mind, we came up with the Blazo, where as an industry-first, we guarantee better fuel efficiency. But, being a challenger brand, this was not enough. In the CV industry, customers need a higher uptime for which service and parts support is must. And with a challenger brand, there's always that level of doubt in the customers' mind. They were very sure about the quality of our trucks, but there was a doubt about service and parts.

We decided to focus on giving our customers a guarantee on service and parts. For this we have enhanced our dealer network and marketing communication. Today customers are paying similarly or a slight premium for our products and service, but their experience with us is much better compared to competitors. They are our biggest advocates, as a result of which we are the fastest growing brand in this business. We are already number 3 in the tractor business, number 4 in tippers and in December 2017 we were number 3 in all segments put together.


2. What will be the key areas of focus for MTB to achieve its target of 7 per cent market share by 2020?

If you ask me personally, in any industry, our aspiration is to be a credible number 3. This industry, for long, has effectively been run by the top two players and we believe the consumer has a lot to gain if the market opens up. This will not happen automatically especially because the market leaders won't cede an inch of space that they occupy. So, our aspiration is to be a credible number 3 and being that means redefining everything. 7 percent is doubling our market share compared to last year and given the acceptance our products and services are getting, we should hopefully be there. At the end of the day 7 percent is still a number that leaves us with a lot of space to grow.

3. Speaking of the Blazo 49 smart truck, can you tell us more about the tech in this truck that will be an industry first?

The Blazo is already a truck that is far superior than its competitors in the Indian market. So far we have addressed three things with the Blazo. The first is fuel which accounts for 52 percent of operating economics, the next big elements are tyres, and the one that makes everything happen - the driver. I may own a truck but I don't drive a truck, for that I have to rely on hundreds of drivers. Most of my trucks will be at least 1000km away from me at any given point of time. In this scenario, the driver becomes crucial. With the Blazo, we not only provide the most fuel-efficient trucks, but also the most comfortable cabin.

Given that in a country like ours, where 80 percent of the multi-axle trucks' cabins are being made out of wood in aftermarket, industry leaders are providing their trucks with cowl chassis. In an industry where the leaders are not even providing 100 percent of OE cabin, is AC more important or should OE certified and OE-made crash-tested cabins be provided first?

This is where the industry is and we being a challenger brand, said that we will take the leap. In the Blazo 49 smart truck, we upped the game when it comes to safety and the comfort of the driver.

A truck driver is in a profession where he drives for 9-10 hours everyday unlike most regular drivers who drive for 2 to 3 hours a day. In most cases, the driver does not realise that he is pushing himself. The Blazo 49 smart truck has a doziness sensor which senses the driver is tired, it senses alcohol consumption (as well). Apart from this, the heads-up display provides the vital parameters of the truck, so the driver can focus on the road ahead.

Systems like automatic tyre pressure monitor on the dashboard itself are also really crucial for the truck, given that most of the time it is running at peak levels (load) of what the brakes and everything are tested. So, if the tyre pressure is less, it could be a safety issue or even lead to an accident.

Apart from safety, there are a lot of comfort features like sunroof that have been provided. A feature like sunroof is something that is available in cars, but here we are providing it in a truck. Then there are rain sensing wipers, traction control, and collision avoiding systems to name a few.

So, the intention with the Blazo 49 smart truck is that we are a technology-ready company that is ready to provide these features but all of this comes at a cost. Given the customers in this industry are very sensitive to cost, we will be providing some of the safety features that we have displayed here in the Blazo 49 smart truck.

4. With the eCosmos concept, Mahindra will be one of the first players in the electric bus segment. Do you think electric buses will catch the public's imagination faster than electric cars?

Electric vehicles will take time in my viewpoint. It won't be as fast as some of us think because there are various elements to this. In commercial vehicles, at the end of the day, it's cost per kilometre. I will give you an example of a school bus operator. Your kids go to school and you pay a quarterly or monthly fee for the bus service. If the school bus changes to electric and the operator says that the bus fee will be doubled, some may agree but most people will not and that's where the trade-off is.

Currently, the technology is coming at a cost. Electric motors come at a higher cost compared to their diesel counterparts. Having said, that the Government is providing certain subsidy as part of the push for EVs. The way I see, because of the acceptance of the technology, we will see state transport adopting EVs first with the Government subsidies being provided and private players will follow once the technology is cheaper. In buses, this will be the route for sure. In trucks, however, this transition will take place through light commercial vehicles first. Heavy commercial vehicles will be the last to join the electric bandwagon.

This is because, as a nation, we will first address the challenge of charging in the city. Then comes the challenge of charging stations on the highways. That's how I see the industry will move forward.

5. Do you see internal combustion engines being completely phased out in the future or do you think they will still be used for intercity transportation of goods?

As I said, this is like crystal-ball gazing, but I am a fan of ICE (internal combustion engines) and I think it will stay for the foreseeable future, at least, for heavy commercial vehicles. When it comes to cars and buses, the demise of ICE will come much sooner, but when it comes to a 49-tonne truck moving from Delhi to Chennai carrying goods, electric is farfetched right now. And I hope ICE remains in a much cleaner avatar than what it is today.




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Mahindra To Invest Rs 500 Crore To Expand EV Production Facility

In a bid to boost production of electric vehicles (EVs) and related components, Mahindra has announced that it will soon invest an additional Rs 500 crores in its Chakan plant near Pune, Maharashtra. The carmaker has already set an amount of Rs 6,500 crore for expanding the production facility at Chakan. Mahindra's announcement comes a few days after the Maharashtra government gave the nod to its Electric Vehicle Policy 2018. To create a nurturing environment for the production of 5,00,000 EVs in the next five years, the policy states that no road tax will be levied on electric vehicles in the state of Maharashtra. Read more about it.

Currently, to launch three all-electric performance cars by 2020.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Pawan Goenka, the managing director of Mahindra andamp; Mahindra, said, "We are delighted to announce the next phase of our electric vehicle expansion plan at Chakan and would like to thank the government of Maharashtra for its new EV policy which is a proactive step in electric mobility."

After shocking the auto industry by announcing that India would shift to all-electric mobility solutions by 2030, Nitin Gadkari, the Union minister for road transport and highways, seems to have on the decision by saying that the Government will not be formulating a policy for the introduction of EVs. That said, we expect to see more EVs and strong hybrids on the road as the Government enforces stricter emission norms by 2020 along with corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) regulations by the year 2022. Although the thought of cars powered by internal combustion engines (ICE) ceasing to exist in the next couple of decades is saddening, we believe it is high time enthusiasts all over the country start embracing the idea of eerily quiet and technologically complex EVs.




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Monday, 19 February 2018

Tata Teases New Concept Ahead Of Debut At Geneva Motor Show 2018

Tata AMP Teaser

and the 45X at Geneva to give global audiences a glimpse of Tata's upcoming SUV, hatchback and sedan. If the concept does turn out out be a sedan, it could form the basis for the car that competes with the Honda City, a segment Tata has been eyeing for years. The concept will be based on the Alfa, or the AMP platform, that also underpinned the 45X concept and is likely to be as long as the City, or possibly even longer.

Tata AMP

Tata has taken it upon itself to break conventions and the company will be looking at its new Impact 2.0 design language to turn this vision into a reality. In an, Pratap Bose, the design head at Tata Motors, pointed out that the platform will give Tata's cars segment-leading wheelbases to lend them some serious road presence. And based on what we saw at the Expo, we don't doubt these statements one bit. Expect the concept's design to lay heavy emphasis on Tata's critical design elements like the Humanity Line, Diamond DLO (Daylight Opening) and Slingshot Line to set the sedan apart from the rest of the field.

Tigor JTP

Don't be surprised if Tata breaks away from the conventional sedan mould by going for a more coupandeacute;-like roofline or a sportback-style sedan like the, albeit with more radical lines. But all said and done, expect the sedan to retain Tata's quintessential trait - cabin space.

The sedan is likely to be powered by Tata's Revotron and Revotorq petrol and diesel engines mated to manual and automatic transmissions. It's a little too early to draw any noteworthy conclusions, but one thing is for certain, Tata will be looking to form sub-segments of its own with each new product, and the upcoming concept, if a sedan, will give us a glimpse into how the Impact 2.0 story develops.




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Government Proposes New Green Car Policy

Government Proposes New Green Car Policy

Days after to make all-electric cars mandatory by 2030, the Indian Government has now proposed a 'technologically agnostic' plan to encourage manufacturers to promote greener cars in India.a While it may never be known what caused the latest knee jerk reaction from the Government, the message seems to be of softening of its stand on how India should move forward with adopting more eco-friendly modes of transport.

Government Proposes New Green Car Policy

Currently, cars are incentivised based on their dimensions, engine size and body style; the draft national policy by the Ministry of Heavy Industries recognises that this does not necessarily promote greener technologies. What the new policy proposes is to add average fleet emission norms for manufacturers, as is the norm followed in many mature markets globally, and leave it to the manufacturers to decide how they want to achieve these goals.

Government Proposes New Green Car Policy

With the new policy, manufacturers will have the freedom of choosing the fuels and technologies to achieve the fleet emission norms - reopening the doors for development of petrol/diesel, CNG, bio-ethanol, bio-diesel, hybrid and all-electric powertrains. Of course, the Government will encourage that these technologies be developed and made in India. Manufacturers meeting the goals or over-achieving them will have the liberty of selling carbon-credits and making more money, which should further boost their enthusiasm about the proposed policy.

Government Proposes New Green Car Policy

When implemented, cars with emissions lower than 155gm/km will receive more incentives from the Government, including lower duties and cesses. To make such cars more attractive to consumers, the Government is also proposing to make interest rates on loans and road taxes vary depending on a car's emission rating. The emission cut-off will be reduced over time, with a target of 110gm/km for 2028.

Government Proposes New Green Car Policy

The new policy does give as each one can use their own expertise to tackle the issue, rather than invest everything on all-electric cars. The best news though, is that this policy looks more capable of tackling increasing vehicular pollution in India. The policy is still in its draft stage though and it remains to be seen what the final version will decree.




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EV 2030 Rollback The Silver Lining

EV 2030 Rollback: The Silver Lining

"I am going to do it, whether you like it or not. I will bulldoze. Petrol diesel banaane walon kaa band-baajaa bajaanaa hai."

On September 7, 2017, these words from the Road Transport Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari at the SIAM conference took the automotive industry by storm. Especially because this statement came after Minister of State for Power and Renewable Energy Shri Piyush Goyal's statement that India will produce and sell only electric vehicles by 2030, ruling out even hybrid vehicles.

EV 2030 Rollback: The Silver Lining

There were a lot of doubts about how a developing country like ours, which is still working towards providing electricity to all of its citizens, can gear up for an all-electric fleet of cars. who had invested in petrol/diesel technology or were working towards hybrid powertrains. But now, the government has revised its stand and this time, with a penned reply in the Lok Sabha.

"There are, at present, no plans under consideration of the Department of Heavy Industry to make all vehicles in the country powered by electricity by 2030," said Babul Supriyo, Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. Shree Nitin Gadkari too gave a statement that "There is no need for any policy now."

EV 2030 Rollback: The Silver Lining

While this might come as a relief for the automotive industry, it might not be the best thing for the people. Because while there are a number of reasons why the all-electric deadline was immature, it did something very important -. And since you know all the reasons why this deadline could not have worked, here are a few which show why this wake-up call was necessary.

EV 2030 Rollback: The Silver Lining

First, keeping the harsh words aside, let's focus on why the government was so pushy on getting EVs by 2030. India has been struggling to make strides in automotive technology. Yes, it is one of the largest automotive markets and growing at a rapid pace, but even today it is dominated by the technologies and products of foreign manufacturers. And while there are carmakers like Tata and Mahindra who now have started to get a grip on the market, the majority sales are still accounted by Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. And in the big car or luxury car market, there are no Indian carmakers at all.

If you have been following the changing trends in the automotive industry you would know that the future of mobility is electric. If not all-electric, but surely a balance tipping towards the motors. But in India, there was hardly any action or development which hinted towards electrification. Heck, taking advantage of the FAME subsidy, manufacturers dealt us puny mild hybrids in place of actual ones, while electric vehicles were not even on the cards.

EV 2030 Rollback: The Silver Lining

With a strong and an almost unreal push towards e-mobility, the Government wanted to ensure that we, if we do not become the leaders in electric vehicle technology, should not be lacking behind either. And that is one of the reasons why there were no subsidies given towards foreign imports of electric cars or tech. Also, because a subsidy on hybrids could have again resulted in more mild technologies coming in, it would have only pushed an inevitable shift towards electric further into the future.

Emflux

And this is not something which is immature or unreal. Yes, it would still have been almost impossible to produce and sell only electric cars by 2030, but there would have been a or carmakers making and dominating the EV market. And that aside, since the verbal all-electric deadline was given, we have seen a lot of changes happening. The Suzuki-Toyota JV to make and sell electric cars in India by 2020, Suzuki-Toshiba JV to manufacture lithium-ion battery packs in Gujarat, Hyundai gearing up to launch electric vehicles and not hybrids, and Maruti-Suzuki to introduce hybrid vehicles and more.

EV 2030 Rollback: The Silver Lining
Peak demand deficit - Maharashtra

Now comes the question of having the required infrastructure and a clear policy roadmap towards electrification. While the latter was completely absent, the former was being worked upon to help provide for e-mobility, options to choose from by 2030.




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Maharashtra Government Launches EV Policy 2018

Mahindra e2o Plus

Just a few days after the central government took a U-turn over formulating a policy for the introduction of EVs in the country by 2030, the Maharashtra government has announced its Electric Vehicle Policy 2018 to support faster EV adoption in the state. This is not the first time the government has taken such a step. Last year itself, Maharashtra. Following that, Goa also exempted EVs from road tax starting January 2018.

Related:

Mahindra eKUV100

Under the new policy, a subsidy of 15 per cent of the total cost of the EV will be given to the buyer. However, this will be limited to only the first 1 lakh EVs that are registered in the state. To further bring down EV prices the government has also exempted them from road tax and registration fees.

Maharashtra Government Launches EV Policy 2018

Apart from the buyer incentives the policy also paves a way for better charging infrastructure in the state. EV manufacturers are now allowed to set up charging stations at existing petrol pumps (subject to safety clearance), and the first 250 charging stations to set up will get a subsidy of 25 per cent from the state government. The maximum payout under the subsidy is capped at Rs 10 lakh per station. To make charging the EVs cheap the charging stations will get electricity at a tariff that is on par with residential electricity rates, which is significantly cheaper than commercial electricity rates. In the first phase, the policy will be implemented in only six cities: Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Thane, Aurangabad and Nasik.

Tata Tigor EV


Last year, the Karnataka government also announced (not yet implemented) the Karnataka Electric Vehicles andamp; Electric Storage Policy 2017. It was aimed at projecting its capital, Bangaluru, as the EV capital of India. It is to be done by developing EV manufacturing zones and clusters, providing subsidies for charging infrastructure in all public and private properties, exemption from payment of taxes on EVs, and providing various other benefits to all manufacturers, support system providers and buyers.

Recommended Read




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Friday, 16 February 2018

Narain Karthikeyans New Toy Is A Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche 911 GT3 And Karthikeyan

We often hear about people with capital, but not necessarily driving skills, buying exotic sports cars. But this time around, justice has prevailed. Narain Karthikeyan, one of India's faster drivers, has bought himself a. This is the performance-focused variant of the 911 range and gets tweaks which make it more stable for someone like Karthikeyan, rather than someone in a, well... suit.

Porsche 911 GT3 And Karthikeyan

The 911 GT3 runs the largest flat 6-cylinder engine ever on a road-going. It's a 4.0-litre naturally aspirated motor which pushes out 500PS of maximum power at 8,250rpm and 460Nm of peak torque at 6,000rpm, and revs till 9,000 rpm. It's not as aggressive as the GT2 RS which makes 700PS/750Nm from a 3.8-litre engine, but the GT3 is still pretty quick with a 0-100kmph time of 3.4 seconds. This is mainly down to the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch transmission which sends power to the rear wheels.

Porsche 911 GT3 And Karthikeyan

Handling has supposedly been improved with the new GT3 featuring improved front and rear suspension. Rear wheel steering, electronically actuated rear differential and active suspension management have been carried over from the previous GT3.

Porsche 911 GT3 Interiors

In a bid to reduce weight, stuff like the rear seats' sound insulation layers have been removed. Furthermore, there is extensive use of carbon fibre in the car, to an extent where even the hinges for the engine cover are made from it. But because this car still needs to be comfortable for the driver, it gets electronically adjustable bucket seats, AC and a large central touchscreen infotainment system paired to a sound system, which seems to be a little pointless given that the flat-6 will be singing all the time.

We are sure Karthikeyan will be able to do justice to this engineering marvel and vice versa.




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NITI Aayog Gets Its First Fast-Charging Station

NITI Aayog Gets Its First Fast-Charging Station

After EESL received the from Tata, the NITI Aayog government body has now installed ABB fast chargers in its campus. The ABB Terra 53 fast-charging station will be used by officials to juice up their official electric vehicles at the organization's office in New Delhi. The Terra 53 electric charger converts alternating current (AC) from the grid to the direct current (DC) used by EV batteries, and can work with EVs that use AC charging as well. This ABB's 50kW fast-charging station can provide a full charge to the connected electric vehicle in 30 minutes.

ABB Terra 53 fast-charging station

The installed charging station also features ABB Ability Connected Services. This allows the company to link the charging station to payment platforms and smart grid systems. This connected technology also help plan where the next charging stop should be, according to to the availability of charging stations. This installation goes a long way in strengthening the NITI Aayog's commitment to convert all their vehicles to electric ones in the coming months.

Tata Tigor EV

On this occasion, Sanjeev Sharma, Managing Director of ABB India, said, "We are thankful and honoured to support Indian Government's thought leadership and drive to systematically transform the nation's transportation base to electric vehicles. ABB reinforces its commitment to the nation's future of renewable power generation and clean electric transportation with our global technologies made in India.''

"We will continue to deploy and leverage the next level of global, open standard technology to provide the best-in-class reliable and cost-effective EV charging experience for Indian citizens living in smart cities. We believe that smart cities are made of smart elements and ABB EV Charging technology is one such important element." he added.

Hyundai Ioniq

This move by NITI Aayog is definitely a step in the right direction and should encourage more government and even private bodies to convert their office fleets to electric, or at least install a fast charger in their facility to help employees shift to electric cars.




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