At Tata Motors, we strive to enhance our customers´ experience, offering the unmatched benefit of a Tata truck, with best lifecycle cost, longer service runs and enhanced levels of driver comfort, resulting in best-in-class profitability and lowest payback period for operators, says Vinod Sahay, Head (Sales and Marketing), Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors. Excerpts of the interview.
What is your outlook for medium and heavy-duty trucks and tippers?
At Auto Expo 2014, Tata Motors showcased a range of exciting new light and heavy commercial vehicles Tata Ace Zip XL, Prima 4032.S LNG, Prima CX 1618.T (Prima B Cab), LPS 4923 lift axle tractor, Magic Iris Electric, Prima Race truck, Starbus Urban 9/18 FE articulated bus and Starbus Urban FE - parallel hybrid bus.
Tata Motors will continue to develop new products and upgrade its existing ones. The company strives to offer the best-in-class vehicles in each segment through technology rich products, offering the best lifecycle cost to our customers.
At Excon 2013, Tata Motors showcased six new M and , tipper ConsTruck range. These were conceived to cater to specific requirements coming in from the construction industry, for higher tonnage surface transport, as well as for higher capacity mixers. These include the Tata Prima 3138.K, a powerful vehicle ideal for heavy-duty mining application, the Tata LPK 3118 8X2 haulage tipper designed for long-haul surface transport applications which has a sleeper cabin for the comfort for the driver, the Tata LPK 3723 10x4, a 10 cu m ready mix concrete (RMC) body, the only vehicle to qualify in the segment of 10 cu m transit mixer application, the Tata Prima LX 2523.K for mining and construction application, the Tata Prima LX 3123.K for construction application and surface transport, and the Tata Prima LX 2528.K for heavy-duty mining and construction application.
The new vehicles from Tata Motors, the ConsTruck range, is a result of the company working closely with customers with a futuristic approach for a better profit advantage in a challenging and competitive transport environment. At Tata Motors, we strive to enhance our customers´ experience, offering the unmatched benefit of a Tata truck, with best lifecycle cost, longer service runs and enhanced levels of driver comfort, resulting in best-in-class profitability and the lowest payback period for operators.
Tell us about the Prima range and how it has been influential in transforming the distance travelled per day.
Tata Prima has changed the dynamics in the HCV space and in fact, has raised the bar. It has been instrumental in changing the trucking landscape of India over the past few years. Currently, it is the best truck range available in India, in terms of its offerings such as cabin features, power-to-weight ratio, safety aspects, advance technology, quality and reliability and return on investment. It is the ideal solution, factoring in all the important aspects of the ideal truck for a profitable fleet business. The Prima platform is versatile. It will continue to demonstrate technological superiority and best-in-class comfort, with best total cost of ownership in the Indian market, all aspects of a modern truck business.
We recently showcased six new vehicles from our ConsTruck range of tippers at CONSTRUCK 2013. These included variants of the Prima, called Prima LX, based on the feedback of customers, being able to be customised as per their business needs, thereby putting in their reach the Prima advantage.
The all-new Prima LX range is based on the Prima platform; a blend of technology and economy, providing customers with an ideal solution at a price point. In addition, employers are now more interested in comfortable equipment for their employees, in order to create a healthy and stimulating working environment, given that the industry is facing a serious dearth of truck drivers.
The Indian trucking industry is passing through a rough phase and as per a recent sector analysis by India Ratings, the production is expected to be down by another 3-5 per cent. What is your take on this?
The biggest concern for the industry is the challenging macro-economic environment in the country. It is difficult to predict the exact macro-economics, as this is not really an automotive issue. The current economic downturn includes concerns around potential food inflation and the falling value of rupee, including other key elements. While we continue to see stress in infrastructure, construction and mining among others, it is important that there is growing investment in the country and a rational look at taxation across industries, including the automotive industry.
New vehicle demand is subdued by various parameters such as poor load availability, creeping operating expenses and non-commensurate freight rates, a reflection of the state of the Indian economy. The most challenging issue is the overall industry downturn rather than market share. In recent months, risk aversions and more stringent norms from financial markets have affected the segment.
At Tata Motors, our production plans are continuously calibrated keeping in mind estimated demand, our stock in the channel and the company, along with other key considerations. We continue to have a strong leadership position in all aspects for the customer, with a 60 per cent market share. This market leadership is being strengthened continuing with the tradition of technology-rich products, offering best lifecycle cost, an increased investment towards research and development and business innovation initiatives.
We also have financial schemes which are being offered to boost the customer morale. The highly depressed industry scenarios in FY13 led all competitors to offer extreme discounts. Our approach has always been to offer the best lifetime value to the customers, and we built on this through the launch of new products.
Has the de-growth in the mining and infrastructure sectors impacted your performance, especially the heavy-duty trucks and tippers?
We continue to see stress in infrastructure, construction and mining among other industries. It is important that there is growing investment in the country and a rational look at taxation across industries, including the automotive industry. The most challenging issue is the overall industry downturn rather than market share though we do see a specific requirement coming up from the construction industry for higher tonnage surface transport as well as for higher capacity mixers.
What is your take on the intense competition? What differentiates Tata Motors from the competition?
Tata Motors´ product plans have been made taking into account that there will be competition. We have introduced products with world-class platforms and new variants have been added, which place us well vis-a-vis the competition. We will continue to grow in the market segments and also protect and grow our market share. We have steadily maintained 60-65 per cent market share over the last ten years and more. Tata Motors has a range of commercial vehicles offerings in the small, light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles segments. Our products are increasingly being more appreciated and known for what they stand for in terms of maximum utility, with class-leading attributes in terms of built, space, fuel economy, robustness and features. The length and breadth of our product portfolio gives us the flexibility to play in the market, and we are confident that we will be able to maintain the overall market share in FY14.
What is the current export scenario?
Tata Motors is a global company with global aspirations, and we are continuously expanding our international footprint. We have been present in the international market for over five decades now. The company has ventured into the international market starting with Sri Lanka, partnering with DIMO in 1961, starting with the export of commercial vehicles.
Our strategy is that we want to grow and become more of a global company. To that end, we will continue the expansion of our global footprint, enhancing our presence in emerging markets, with a focus on ASEAN, Asia, Africa, Middle East and Latin America. We are presently evaluating several options across Asia, Latin America and North Africa for the feasibility of setting up manufacturing facilities. Although it is premature at this stage to make specific mention of the countries we are considering, we continuously plan for our overseas manufacturing locations to contribute a significant part of our international volumes over the next five years.
We are confident of significant growth volumes, as we consolidate our position through focus markets, as well as enter promising new markets. Our go-to-market strategy will also gain from the several new and refurbished models to be launched in the next five years, through a bouquet of customer-facing measures being rolled out under the Horizonext platform.
Today, the company is present in over 60 markets (both PC and CV) - Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia, South Asia, South America, CIS and Russia. Through its subsidiaries and associate companies, Tata Motors has operations in the UK, South Korea, Thailand, Spain, South Africa, Morocco and Indonesia. The company has franchisee/joint venture assembly operations in Bangladesh, Ukraine, and Senegal, has a JV with Thornbury in Thailand to manufacture pick-ups. In the recent times, there have been new partnerships with DRB HICOM in Malaysia and Fusion Automotive in Australia, both for CVs.
Tata Motors´ manufacturing operations are spread across six locations in India. The Tata Motors Group´s international business also includes the Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company in South Korea, Tata Motors (Thailand) Limited, and Tata Motors (SA) (Proprietary) in South Africa. Tata Motors itself has franchisee/JV assembly operations in Ukraine, Russia, Bangladesh and Senegal.
b>To what extent has Telematics been commercially successful? Is this facility available for retail customers also?
Yes, Telematics is available to retail customers and is successful in helping large fleet operators and track movement of their vehicles; enhance productivity, economy and safety. Tata FleetMan, India´s leading fleet telematics service from Tata Motors includes live tracking of vehicles along with various other salient features such as geo-fencing, trip management, alerts and reports. Combining state-of-the-art IT and automotive electronics with the company´s vast experience and expertise in commercial vehicles, Tata FleetMan offers one of the most advanced fleet telematics solutions in the country. Targeted at the commercial vehicle industry, Tata FleetMan seeks to help transport and logistics companies achieve significant enhancements in productivity, economy and safety in their fleet operations.
What are the value additions incorporated for environment friendliness, safety, less energy and less fuel consumption?
Earlier, CVs were typically equated with high fuel consumption and increased environment degradation. The emphasis on developing green technology for CVs was not enough. In the current context, increased legislative requirements and fuel costs have meant that CVs are far more fuel-efficient, largely emission-free, and silent and therefore, green. Research suggests that when it comes to buying decision, fuel cost and initial cost are the deciding factors in Indian CV industry. Changing buyer demographics and urbanisation have also come to mean there is greater significance attached to continuous advancement of design technology and manufacturing that make CVs efficient, lighter and faster, user-friendly and sustainable.
Given this, Tata Motors is constantly working towards enhancing its CVs´ fuel economy across a number of parameters. Continuous and improved testing coupled with strict validation of its vehicles´ performance has led the company to significantly enhance the fuel economy of its CVs.
Light-weight is the way forward. Greater emphasis on advancement of material technology and manufacturing making vehicle lighter with the use of high strength steels, composites, metal polymer sandwich.
Safety is a prime parameter when it comes to vehicles and CVs call for greater safety features due to the transportation of, at times, hazardous materials. Consistent R and D in this context has led to CVs being extremely driver-friendly, providing greater control over the vehicle, both on the road and off it.
Other active safety features are enabled by all-round sensing, electronic actuation of steering and braking and a ´brain´ to assist monotonous driving tasks and hazardous situations evolving in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS ).
DAS on Prima: Adaptive cruise controls, autonomous emergency braking and other active safety systems to meet likely future legislative requirements.
ESP: Unique proposition for TML wherein large number of tractors are with mechanical engines and safety systems such as roll stability are integrated till date only with electronic engines.
Hill start aid: Unique proposition for TML. HSA function is available with AMT and AT vehicles only, a cost-effective solution.
Are there any more capex/new products on the anvil?
Tata Motors will continue to develop new products and upgrade its existing ones. The company strives to offer the best-in-class vehicles in each segment through technology-rich products, offering the best lifecycle cost to our customers. Of the Rs 3,000 crore invested by Tata Motors every year on R and D and new product development, about half of the investment is towards CVs.
India´s First Truck Racing Initiative
Tata Motors recently launched India´s first truck racing initiative, the T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship. Inscribed on the calendars of Federation Internationale de l´Automobile (FIA) and the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), the T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship will be held on 23 March 2014, at the internationally acclaimed Buddh International Circuit, giving Indian audiences the grand spectacle of big trucks competing against each other.
At the heart of the T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship, the Tata Prima 4038.S will compete with the massive power of 370 BHP @ 2,100 RPM and a top speed of 110 km/h. To make the Tata Prima 4038.S fit for racing, 22 key modifications were made to meet a mix of safety and performance needs as per guidelines from British Truck Racing Association. These included significant changes to the fuel tank, the brake cooling system, propeller shaft guards, addition of racing seats and safety belts, exhaust, steering wheel among others. The Tata Prima 4038.S has gone through multiple quality checks and tested at Tata Motors Jamshedpur´s world-class testing facility, for high-speed run and control. The T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship will feature 12 Tata Prima 4038.S trucks, built for the purpose.
Our strategy is that we want to grow and become more of a global company. To that end, we will continue the expansion of our global footprint, with plans to enhance our presence in emerging markets, with a focus on ASEAN, Asia, Africa, Middle East and Latin America.