Autonomous systems will gradually enter CV market: Tata Motors

Chennai: Following the success of their entry-level small commercial vehicle (SCV), the Ace, Tata Motors launched the Intra, the first compact truck in the country according to the company’s claims, in Chennai.

Priced from Rs 5.35 lakh for the V10 model and Rs 5.85 lakh for the V20 model, the vehicle has been built as part of Rs 2,000 crore spent by Tata Motors in R&D every year and has two engine options. The firm’s officials also claim that the vehicle will be BS6 ready when the norms kick in.

During the launch event on Wednesday, News Today caught up with president of Commercial Vehicle Business Unit (CVBU) at Tata Motors, Girish Wagh to know where the industry heading towards at the moment.

Speaking about it, Girish said, “We must look at what happened in the last two years. We have seen very good growth in FY18. We are actually coming back to that kind of a growth (now). Towards second half of last year, one started seeing some kind of headwinds. Whether it is liquidity crunch or increased axle load regulation that came in MNSCV, one saw slowdown in commercial vehicles and that too in the cargo segment. So, the market actually went down in the month of November, 2018. On a y-o-y basis too the market has gone down. That has carried over in April. If you look at the tipper segment, however that has continued to do well.”

Asked what he thinks will get things back on track, the CVBU president said, “We saw a reduction in growth of manufacturing sector and in consumption in the fourth quarter. These are worrying factors as the commercial vehicle segment is closely linked to the economy. Therefore, one certainly is looking forward to the revival of these areas which will finally lead to better growth come back.”

With around 99 per cent localisation, Tata Motors has pitched the intra as an upmarket product than the ace, which incidentally will continue to be sold alongside the new product.

The firm claims to have worked on the interior ambience of the CV, and has brought in features like air conditioning, music player, mobile phone mounts, bottle holders, a gear shift advisor, among others.

Girish was asked if the motive was to take the rather dry segment upmarket and he said, yes. “The aspiration of customers in the segment is going up. The use of mobile phones, internet are leading to higher aspirations. They do want a new trend which is about wellness. They want to focus on it apart from earning more profit. The Intra addresses the need for higher revenue and profit and also the need for AC and other features,” he said.

With the commercial vehicle segment known to follow passenger vehicles in terms of safety and technology, the president was asked what he thinks will happen with respect to CVs in safety in the near future. To which he said, ‘CVs are also driven by regulations which focus more on the active safety part. We introduced anti-lock braking system (ABS) in heavy vehicles and buses. I see some technologies under the idea of autonomous (driving) getting into our market from an active safety point of view. It can be lane departure system, or others, which fall under the autonomous umbrella. All these safety features can help the driver improve productivity, reduce turnaround time and those (features) will make a lot of sense in our market.’

It can be remembered that Maruti recently made shockwaves by announcing that it might drop diesels completely. However, Tata Motors rides on the growth of diesel-engined vehicles. Asked of the auto major will consider introducing petrol engines in SCVs, Girish said, “CVs are always bought with a particular aspect of doing business in mind. Therefore what powertrain makes sense very clearly depends upon profitability. We keep evalutating all these options. Our presence in passenger cars means we have gasoline powertrains and we have experience in making them. Whether it (petrol engines) will come here (in CVs) will strictly depend on economic sense.”

Speaking at the launch, CEO and MD, Tata Motors, Guenter Butschek, said, “As the leader in the commercial vehicle industry we are playing a key role in shaping the CV market by introducing global products based on deep customer insights. We have strengthened our actions under the ongoing turnaround. With intense sales activation, new product launches, continued thrust on cost reduction, we have been able to improve our CV business performance. We want to strengthen our leadership position across all segments we operate in. The Tata Intra is a testament of our unrelenting commitment to introduce products that embody engineering passion and bolster customer value proposition and it will be a game changer for us in the SCV segment as it offers several industry-first features, setting high standards in the market.”

The Intra is for sale at all Tata commercial vehicle dealerships all over the nation at present. Officials from the major state that the vehicle is built on a modular platform that would enable it to be sold as left hand drive variants overseas. Tata exports its CVs to the Middle East, North Africa and other SAARC nations.

TN’s importance
“Chennai and Tamilnadu are very important markets for us in all the segments. Specifically in SCVs, Tamilnadu has been one of the largest markets in the entire country. The State consumes more commercial vehicles (every year). Last year in a month, we crossed 2,500 vehicles here. So it is a very important and key market for us,” said Girish speaking about Tamilnadu’s role in Tata’s sales.

 

Praveen Kumar S