Marking an entry into the new era according to Hakan Agnevall, President, Volvo Buses, the Europe-bound buses will also carry some engine components that have been sourced through Volvo Eicher’ joint venture engine plant at Pithampur, Indore. Said Agnevall, “We are the first bus company to export buses to Europe. Present here for fourteen years, we are taking the next step of the Asia leverage strategy.” As part of the Asia leverage strategy, Volvo first embarked on a plan to expand the bus plant at Hoskote, Bangalore. Pledging to invest Rs.400 crore, more lines and processes were installed; new paint shop was installed along with a warehouse, and a training and skills development centre.
The Europe-bound buses will see some amount of customisation according to Hakan. Like the placement of ticket vending machine, etc., to satisfy the requirements of the European clients. Rolling out of the Hoskote facility, which has an installed capacity to build 1,500 buses in one shift post the expansion – before expansion it was 800 units, these buses are also bound to reflect on Volvo’s intent to bring hybrid and electric buses to India. Said Hakan, that the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) vehicle program marks a good initiative by the government. “We are in dialogue with the government to participate,” he added.
and Hakan Agnevall, President, Volvo Buses.
How do you look at the India journey of Volvo Bus – from entry into India, until the European export initiative?
Volvo has been driving a revolution. It has changed the Indian bus market towards seeking fully built buses. This is akin to driving a complete bus change, and amounts to a significant development. We have stayed ahead of the competition by introducing new products. We have upgraded ourselves locally through exports. We have also benefited locally from installing new processes and methodologies. The last four years have been quite defining.
How do you see the European export initiative benefiting the Indian clients?
European regulations are different from that of the Indian regulations. The mapping that we did therefore, would also benefit our Indian clients. An example is the application of double glazed glass. In India the regulation is for the use of single glazed glass. Our Indian clients will benefit from the use of double glazed glass.
Any specific reason why you chose India over China?
We looked at a segment that is existing, and found out that we have the right competence in India. The product that we have in India is a global product. Even though it is made as an Indian product. We therefore found that the Indian footprint would make a competitive footprint. We chose India over China because of the full control over business. We also see our competitors starting to do substantial investments. We encourage competition as we feel it will promote the quality of buses in India. The Indian operations of Volvo rank among the top 10.
Now that you are beginning to export buses to Europe, are you happy with the quality of the suppliers here?
Let me put it differently. Customer expectations are growing, and it was natural to address them. So we acquired vendors as part of our acquisition of the body building business. We are generally happy with our suppliers in India.
In India there were some accidents involving Volvo buses. Has this prompted any change?
We are working with the authorities to address the legal issues. When an accident happens, the government looks into it. At our end, we have a global team that looks into it. We took Indian accidents quite seriously. We designed a coach concept to have options that are also found in other markets. We are also offering options as per active regulations. We are a global company and offer
There have been experiments in the area of buses powered by alternate fuels. Are you also looking at an alternative to fossil fuel?
We did an analysis, which showed that future driveline sustainability will stem from electric solutions. It had to be less polluting and more efficient. We looked at hybrid, which we are producing since 2009. We have delivered 5,000 hybrid and fully electric buses. Under the hybrid portfolio we also looked at electric hybrid. We recently introduced a full-electric bus at Gothenburg in Sweden. Electric solutions will gradually take over as a urban mobility source for reducing CO2 emissions, noise, etc. Electric solutions are confined to infrastructure. Hybrid therefore looks like a sustainable infrastructure. Three cornerstones for us include hybrid, hybrid-electric and electric. We are offering battery per km cost so that the customers know, and we want to create common infrastructure. We have sold hybrids all over the world. We are trying them in parts of Asia. We are in dialogue with the government to participate. We believe that some of our competitors are also trying new solutions. Some of these may have failed to find sustenance in