EXCON 2015 signals the return of a positive sentiment

Volvo Dump Truck copy Torro 31 tipper from Mahindra copy The strong arm of technology copy SSAB body for Scania P410 copy Schwing stetter copy Sany copy Pro 8031 from Volvo Eicher copy Mahindra 605Di Engine copy M2M_4941 copy M2M_4925 copy JCB machines copy JCB Engine copy IMG_20151126_104117610 copy IMG_20151125_163349465 copy Bridgestone copy BKT copy


It was the return of a positive sentiment that made EXCON 2015 exciting as well as successful. It is claimed to be the biggest exhibition of construction equipment in South-East Asia.

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

Heavy rains until the day before EXCON 2015 would commence at the Bangalore International Exhibition Grounds had the organisers and participants worried. The rains threatened to jeopardise the preparations, and called for valiant efforts to stabilise the ground for display of heavy earth moving and construction equipment in the open area. Attracting over 800 exhibitors, of which 270 were from overseas, the five-day fair opened its doors with the skies a shade of deep blue on November 25, 2015. The mushy soil patches underneath the carpet at some places in the open display area were the only telltale reminders of what it was like the day before. Claimed to be the biggest exhibition of construction equipment in South-East Asia, the eigth edition was spread across 2,20,000 sq. m. and witnessed over 200 product launches. Attracting over 35000 business visitors from across the globe, the fair, organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), had country pavilions from Germany, Italy, China, Korea, Turkey and United Kingdom. Attracting participation from 22 countries, EXCON 2015 was arranged in two parts almost, consisting of an open ground display area and a closed display area spread across four halls.

If the tower cranes, mobile cranes, backhoes, excavators, tippers and concrete mixers found their way to the open display area, the closed display area saw the presence of components and aggregate makers like BKT tyres, JCB Engines, Allison Transmissions, Trelleborg, ITR and many more, showcasing India’s potential as a preferred outsourcing destination for construction equipment manufacturing. Pointing at India’s rising prominence as a global hub for construction equipment manufacturing, EXCON 2015 saw the participation of almost all the leading players in the construction equipment industry.

Targetting the construction of 100 km of roads everyday

Reflecting the return of a positive sentiment on the back of the beginning of activity in mining and infrastructure, chief guest and minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, in his inaugural speech mentioned that infrastructure development is highly essential for the progress of the country and the need of the hour was quality construction, good equipment and a good approach. He stressed upon the use of bio-diesel or ethanol in construction machinery to reduce pollution and be in sync with the government’s vision of a clean India that is free from pollution. Touching upon the need to create skilled manpower, Gadkari mentioned that the atmosphere for road development is good. He said that the government was planning to increase the national highway road length from the current 96,000 km to 1,50,000 km. Revealing that the government was also planning an express highway between Delhi and Srinagar, which will reduce travel time to six hours, and an express highway between Mumbai and Nagpur, Gadkari spoke of a target to build 100 km of roads per day. He also spoke about the plan to convert 111 rivers into inland waterways, and that his ministry is exploring the usage of waste materials such as oil sludge in the construction of roads. About 1200 centres for roadside amenities such as restaurants, rest houses etc. and 200 truck driver clubs have also been planned.

Sumit Mazumder, President, CII, mentioned that the industrial growth is on a steady upward trajectory led by higher growth in the manufacturing sector. Vipin Sondhi, Chairman, EXCON 2015 and MD & CEO of JCB India, expressed that the (construction equipment) industry witnessed difficult 36 months. “There has been some stability right now,” he added. Anand Sundaresan, President, ICEMA, and Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Schwing Stetter India, complemented the Indian government on the significant growth witnessed in the road sector. The construction industry went through a decline however, he remarked. Despite the difficult past, it was the beginning of mining and infrastructure activities that saw the stakeholders of the industry point at a brighter future; stress on the emergence of a positive sentiment. Some also pointed at the influx of technology in the form of new, efficient and highly productive machines.

Volvo FMX dump truck

The highlight of EXCON 2015 was perhaps the launch of the Volvo dump truck in two versions, the FMX 480 and the FMX 520. Aimed at mining application strictly, and to address the gap between the big dump trucks and the heavy duty tippers, these dump trucks are equipped with a 24 cu. m. and a 26 cu. m. rock body. Structured over five axles (10×4), the trucks are powered by a 13-litre Euro 3 engine that does 480 hp and 520 hp. Transmission is a 14-speed manual unit. While, the third axle on the FMX 480 is steerable, on the FMX 520, the fifth axle is steerable. Speaking on the occassion, Pierre Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo Group Trucks India, said that he is very positive about the Indian growth story. Expressing his optimism about the government’s plans to double the coal production to one billion tonnes by 2020, Salamon mentioned that the next five years will open up several new opportunities in coal mining, redefining productivity and efficiency demands. Speaking to CV, a company official also mentioned that his company was evaluating the prospect of road trains at coal mining sites. Trials were underway, he claimed. An official announcement will be made when the time is right, he added.

SSAB body for Scania P410

Anders Grundstormer, Managing Director, Scania CV India, also announced that they were looking at road trains to take out coal from the pits. Expressing that the market looks promising, Grundstormer said, “The mining market looks promising, and that of the coal especially, in terms of input of coal and manufacture of coal. Outbound capacity of mines will double; currently it is 550 million tonnes, he added. Grundstormer averred, “We expect to take 35 per cent of the market share of the premium segment. We will focus on outbound; we will look at concepts of road trains that we have in Indonesia and Austalia. Coal import is increasing and will continue to grow before the India made coal levels out the import.” he exclaimed. An important announcement at EXCON was the launch of P410 premium heavy duty tipper with a SSAB body. According to Grundstormer, the SSAB body is lighter yet stronger, and offers higher productivity with an ability to accommodate one more bucket full of overburden.

Pro 8031 from Volvo Eicher

Volvo Eicher displayed the Pro 8031T (8×4) heavy duty 31-tonne tipper and Pro 8031XM 330 hp (8×4) tipper with rock body and box body options for mining apart from the Pro 6025T 220 hp (6×4) box body. An RMC with 210 hp was also displayed. The portfolio was a reflection of the fact that Volvo Eicher is now fully equipped to address mining and construction segments. Speaking on the sidelines of the launch, Vinod Aggarwal, CEO, VE Commercial Vehicles said, that the worst recession for the commercial vehicle industry is behind us. More growth is expected to come from mining and construction. He drew attention to the fact, that the coal mining industry is showing handsome growth with significant focus of the government to increase domestic production of coal. “A number of infrastructure projects are under implementation and the construction segment too is likely to show good growth in the next two to three years.” he added.

Four new Tata construction trucks

Tata Motors unveiled four new products, Prima 3138.K32 CuM Coal tipper, Prima LX 2523.K RePTO, Prima LX 3128.K 19 CuM scoop HRT and TataSAK 1613. If the 5.8-litre 130 hp 1613 is based on the popular semi forward control platform with a four-wheel drive ability for off-road mineral movement, the Prima LX 3128.K 19 CuM Scoop HRT is equipped with a hub reduction tandem rear axle. It is powered by a Cummins ISBe 6.7-litre 266 hp engine mated to a 9-speed gearbox. Speaking on the sidelines of the launch, Rajesh Kaul, Business Head – Intermediate, Medium & Heavy Trucks, Tata Motors, opined that the Prima LX 3128.K 19 CuM Scoop HRT makes an ideal vehicle for shallow and light mining application. He mentioned that the the four new construction trucks have been engineered on extensice customer feedback. “They have been built with world-class manufacturing standards, and are designed to offer maximum vehicle uptime and lowest TCO,” he added. Pointing at the Prima LX 2523.K RePTO, Kaul described it as a high powered concrete mixer with rear engine power take-off. “This one does not have a slave engine to power the concrete mixer,” he said. Power is drawn from the 230 hp, 6.7-litre engine mated to a 9-speed gearbox. The flagship was the Prima 3138.K 32 CuM box coal tipper. Powered by a 370 hp, 8.8-litre Cummins ISLe engine, and mated to a Eaton 9-speed gearbox, this one’s a powerful truck for heavy duty coal mining application. The coal body measures 32 cu. m.

Torro 31 tipper from Mahindra

The highlight of the Mahindra Trucks and Bus division display was the new Torro 31 8×4 tipper. Ideal for on road transportation of coal, iron ore and crushed stones, this truck is powered by a BS III compliant, 170 hp engine mated to a 9-speed gearbox. With the tipping mechanism from Hyva, the Torro 31, according to Nalin Mehta, CEO and Managing Director, adds to the company’s existing range of tippers, and would present the ability to carry more load and enjoy optimum mileage for superior productivity. Mehta also drew attention to the 6-7 per cent market share his company has gathered in the six to eight months. Also on display at the venue was the 274 hp Torro 25 tipper; a Truxo 25 transit mixer (6 cu. m. and 7 cu. m.) with a spacious and ergonomically designed cabin; a 58.5 kW Loadking Zoom 4×2 light duty tipper with a 5950 kg GVW, and a range of backhoes the company makes at its Chakan plant.

Engine business

Volvo Penta displayed CEV Bharat Stage III emission compliant D5 and D8 engines. These make up the company’s new medium duty engine range, and could replace the 6- or 7-litre six-cylinder engines. The base engines are made at Pithampur according to Jonas Nilsson, Head of Volvo Penta in India. Looking at intensifying its activities, Volvo Penta is also looking forward to offer its heavy duty range, which consists of the D11, D13 and D16 engines. Explaining that the D5 and D8 off-road engines share the same common electronics platform as their D11, D13, and D16 counterparts, which allows them to communicate using the same protocol, regardless of emissions level — simplifying design work for OEMs, Nilsson expressed that the engines’ four- and six-cylinder design and common design footprint make the design process easier for several emissions stages. Capable of complying with the most stringent emission norms, the engines are primarily aimed at construction equipment, port-based material handling equipment, raw material exploration, silver extraction, etc. Volvo Penta engines are powering the Sandvik loaders and haulers according to Nilsson. Pointing at sharing developmental resources, Nilsson exclaimed that the nature of application of engines will be to operate concrete pumps, stone crushers, mixers, mobile cranes, etc. According to Nilsson, Volvo Penta is also working with Putzmeister on the concrete pump; with TIL for mobile cranes, and with Cargotec for material handling equipment. Also supporting special application commercial vehicles, Volvo Penta is in discussion with OEMs in India too. Bullish about growth in all the sectors the company operates in, engines produced by it are also exported. Also exported is the equipment powered by Volvo Penta engines.

Greaves Cotton unveiled a 105 hp next generation automotive diesel engine. It is a three-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine with common-rail fuel injection. Likely to be offered in BS 4 guise, the engine, with some minor changes can be adapted for Euro 5 emission compliance. Producing a maximum torque of 220 Nm @ 1600-2000 rpm, the engine weighs 150 kgs (dry). According to Greaves Cotton sources, this engine could soon find its way into an SCV.

Mahindra displayed the 605DI engine in a naturally aspirated form. This engine is BS III CEV compliant and produces 60 hp. Displacing 3532 cc, it delivers a torque of 214 Nm between 1000 rpm and 1200 rpm. Resembling closely with the engines that power the Mahindra backhoes, the core architecture of this engine is claimed to be common to the Mahindra tractor (new generation) engines.

JCB displayed two engines at its stall in Hall 1. One that is made in India, and one that JCB is looking at offering to other off-highway OEMs in India. Both are four-cylinder engines and share the core architecture. The one that is made in India is BS III compliant, 16-valve unit that generates between 76 hp and 150 hp. Available in naturally aspirated, turbocharged and common-rail fuel injection guise with a high pressure rotary pump, the engine is based on the JCB Dieselmax motor. The block, bedplate design and crankshaft dimensions are similar to the Dieselmax, and the cylinder block has been designed for heavy duty off-highway application; the pistons are made of aluminum alloy, and the fuel injectors are centrally located for even burning of fuel. The engine that JCB is looking to offer in India confirms to Tier 4 final stage emission norms according to a JCB official, reflecting upon JCB’s decision to make its own engines. According to the official, the decision to make own engines was taken so that they could get the very best. An engine that was best suited for the job; that was significantly fuel efficient and productive than the engines sourced earlier. For the new engine, the company is hoping to find takers soon; for applications like harvesters, agri equipment, etc. Said Vipin Sondhi, that JCB exports engines to 60 countries, up from the earlier six. Describing India as a competitive manufacturing base, he explained that the company is using its international marketing network to market these engines. Claimed a JCB official that the Indian made engine is already finding application with a Delhi-based road sweeper machine manufacturer. Not stopping at the four-cylinder engine, JCB is also looking at offering six-cylinder engines of up to 284 hp. These, according to the official, are made on a flexible line that can be set up anywhere with little changes.

JCB machines

JCB showcased five new products and two new verticals. According to Vipin Sondhi, the five new products are in the existing range, and include the ‘ecoXcellence’ range of backhoe loaders, skid steer, master loader, 220LC Xtra tracked excavator and Loadall. The two new verticals include the skid steer loader and the telehandler. Sondhi also stressed upon the Livelink telematics solutions. He said that 10,000 machine until July 2015 have been delivered with Livelink, which enables the owner to retain full control of his machine. Explaining that health alerts are delivered in the form of an SMS, Sondhi remarked that JCB could take a pre-emptive action if a certain machine was found to be facing a problem, or is likely to face an issue. He added that JCB has introduced a new Livelink fitment package for those who would want to fit it on their machines. Mentioning that the sector is currently at Bharat Stage III level of compliance, Sondhi opined that the reduction in the use of diesel for the same amount of productivity points at sustainability. “When we launched 3DX two years ago it was saving Rs 2 lakh per year, now it saves another 10 per cent,” expressed Sondhi. Expressing that GST will make India a unified market and bring about a clarity in taxation, Sondhi drew attention to the department of industrial policy announcing an FDI relaxation in 15 sectors including the construction sector. Referring to the construction sector as the one which drives ‘Make in India’ Sondhi remarked that they were creating entrepreneurs by helping operators to turn into owners of construction equipment. With the biggest display area of all the exhibitiors, at 4500 sq m, JCB construction equipment display reflected upon the fact that the machines have been designed for Indian conditions. There are about 400 design engineers the company has employed at its

Pune site.

Ten new products from Sany

Sany premiered 10 new products at the fair. These includes a two and three-tonne mini excavator called SY20 & SY35; 75-tonne flagship excavator called SY750; SPC400 40-tonne truck crane; STC600S 60-tonne truck crane; SCC1500E 150-tonne crawler crane; SAG120-3 120 hp small capacity motor grader; SAG160-5 160 hp motor grader; SBP60F 60 cu. m. per hour batching plant, and STM6 transit mixer.

Putting up a significant display at the fair, Schwing Stetter India displayed 16 new products. These included a M30Z batching plant, a SLM 2200 self loading mixer, RVH 18 circular distributor, LW 300 FN wheel loader of 3-tonne capacity, ZL50GN wheel loader of 5-tonne capacity and a GR 150 motorgrader. Drawing attention to Gadkari mentioning a target of 100 km road construction in his inaugural speech, V. G. Sakthikumar, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter Sales & Services, said that it will open a big market requirement for a company like theirs. Also, the taking off of the nuclear projects and other projects, he added. “Activity is happening and it is a matter of time when it gets moving on the ground,” stated Sakthikumar. He also opined, “Money is not a problem and there are enough projects, which will open a big floodgate for construction equipment. I believe that growth will come in by the middle of next year.” Pointing at companies taking advance action given the shortening window span, Sakthikumar mentioned that their strategy to launch products even when the market was down was to avoid delay when the window opened. “It also helped us to build confidence in the minds of our customers,” he said. Stressing on long term commitment, he explained that they are keen to address the needs of their customers above all, and with high quality products and service support. Eyeing an opportunity in view of the smart cities programme, Schwing Stetter recently launched a sludge pump. Close to an year ago, it announced an entry into tower cranes.

Volvo CE displays the EC750D excavator

Highlighting Volvo CE’s engineering prowess was the 75-tonne EC750D excavator. One of the biggest machines at the fair, the heavy weight 508 hp EC750D (powered by Volvo D16 Tier 3 engine) is set to address the strong demand for larger equipment to meet meet growing production targets. The EC750D, said Dimitrov Krishnan, Vice President, Volvo CE India, is well placed to work in tandem with the new FMX dump trucks that have been launched by Volvo Trucks, and is aimed at mining applications. More specifically in line with the government targeting annual coal production of one-billion tonnes by 2020, he added. He expressed further, that pressure is building on mining operators to improve both their productivity and output. Hinting at a synergy between the Volvo Group companies, Dimitrov said, “The volume of excavation is very high in a coal mine.” Volvo CE has already sold the first six EC750D machines in India to BGR Mining and Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, one of the largest private mining contractors in India. Apart from excavators, Volvo CE will be focusing on excavators for land clearing, compactors, and pavers.

Dump truck tyre from BKT

At Excon 2015, BKT launched a 100-tonne dump truck tyre of all-steel radial construction. Said Ashok P. Chhajer, General Manager – OE Sales, Balkrishna Industries Ltd., that they are highly confident of this tyre. It will lead to a lot of foreign exchange saving since it is made in India, he added. Claiming that all the steel radial dump truck tyres are currently imported, Chhajer mentioned that this is the largest all-steel radial tyre produced in the country till date. The dump truck tyre is made at BKT’s new plant at Bhuj in Gujarat. BKT has invested in the latest technology and equipment at the Bhuj plant, and with the view that this plant will turn out a majority of radial tyres unlike the Aurangabad plant, which produces a good deal of bias-ply tyres. Almost 90 per cent of what the company produces in India is exported. Starting with the manufacture of two wheeler tyres for Bajaj Auto by setting up a plant at Walunj on the outskirts of Aurangabad, BKT specialises in the manufacture of off-highway equipment tyres. It was some fifteen years ago that the company exited the truck and bus tyre market. Concentrating solely on off-highway segment tyres, the nearest that the company produces to a truck tyre is the 10.00 R20 off-highway tipper tyre. According to Chhajer it costs more than a similar tyre from another manufacturer, and will offer far superior performance under harsh off-highway mining operating conditions. Having got this far without collaborating with any tyre manufacturer, BKT will be selling the new dump tyre across the globe. The company will target OE as well as aftermarket with this tyre. According to Chhajer, BEML has taken a keen interest in this tyre. He credits the development of tyres including this one to a team of 50 R&D engineers who introduce 150 to 160 new tyre sizes ever year. Other than BKT, Bridgestone put up a display of off-highway tyres at its booth in Hall 3.

The strong arm of technology

Every machine, every aggregate and every part that was displayed at EXCON 2015 spoke of technology. Better yet, technology spoke up in no uncertain terms. Right from a dandy looking hydraulic cylinder, boom section, body component, tyre, bucket, engine to the highly complicated Allison 4000 series transmission on display in Hall 2. Indicating a rising role of technology to address the changing needs of the customers, which are often contradicting, the presence of heavy weight machines like the Volvo EC750D excavator signalled a distinct shift. A shift to higher productivity machines that are also quite efficient. The rising demand for telematics solutions pointed at the growing need for security. It also hinted at the need for a skilled manpower capable of understanding the efficiency and technology at work. A work force that is able to get the most out of the machines.

The return of positive sentiment was the highlight of EXCON 2015. Generating positive energy and enthusiasm, EXCON 2015 would act as a catalyst for further growth.

Indian CVs tread foreign shores

Treading foreign shores, Indian commercial vehicles are eyeing advanced markets like Europe.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

As the year draws to and end, exports are one of the positives the CV industry in India will remember for long. Low fuel prices not succeeding to uplift some of the CV segments in the domestic market, it is the exports that are a definite positive that the Indian commercial vehicle industry will look at with pride. Thrust on exports is growing. It is helping the Indian commercial vehicle manufacturers as well as the suppliers to gain valuable global insight in the process. Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director, Commercial Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors is known to have expressed that his company has been exporting for 20 years. He is also known to have said that they are ensuring every new CV they develop will conform to global standards, making it a potential candidate for exports. Apart from the Prime and Ultra, Tata Motors is banking on the Xenon and Ace to drive into new export markets. The CV manufacturer is making necessary changes and employing new technology to ensure that these vehicle address the needs of the local markets there. Rising beyond the SAARC region, Tata Motors is concentrating on Far East Asian markets like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. It is also concentrating on Australia and Africa, and has flagged off an assembly operation in Tunisia.


Right tech for the right market

CV exports, in the case of Tata Motors, is set to make the SuperAce Mint a familiar sight in the Thai market, which is also Asia’s largest pick-up truck market. Tata Motors already supplies the Xenon to this market. Australia, at the other end, is turning out to be a lead market for Tata Motors from the technology stand point. The OEM is looking at offering a pick-up truck with an automatic transmission there. Keeping away from Europe, which according to Pisharody, is an expensive proposition, Tata Motors is expecting an export growth of 30 per cent year-on-year.

Applying a good deal of export thrust, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), under the aegis of Daimler Trucks Asia, is banking on the world-class trucks and bus (chassis) produced at Chennai. Working closely with Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC), Japan, the OEM is exporting trucks to 14 markets spread across the Far East Asia and Africa. DICV trucks recently entered the South African market. From early this year, the bus chassis built at Oragadam in a dedicated plant begun exports to markets like Egypt where MCV builds the bodies and offers them as Mercedes-Benz. According to Erich Nesselhauf, Managing Director and CEO, DICV, exports of CVs built at Oragadam are part of DICV’s global growth strategy. To reach out to LHD markets, DICV ensured that its CVs could be suitably modified. Demonstrating interesting manufacturing flexibility, DICV began exporting its bus chassis well before it launched them locally, in the Indian market.

Eyeing advanced markets with world-class CVs

Despite being an expensive proposition, some Indian CV manufacturers are leveraging their European roots to export CVs to Europe. Volvo Buses India, for example, announced the export of its inter-city, twin-axle buses to Europe recently. Employing an imported Euro 6 powertrain, the buses are built on the same conveyor as the Indian buses. Conforming to the European standards and specifications, they are aimed at inter-city coach segment that typically does between 100 and 300 km. The Indian bus will thus compete against buses made by Diamler, Iveco and many European home grown brands. Claim industry sources, that one Volvo B8R single-axle chassis based bus was exported to Belgium in July 2015 from the Ennore port. Also, two B9R 9400 multi-axle buses are known to have been exported to South Africa during the same month; in March 2015 two more buses are claimed to have been exported to the same destination. In August 2015 seven B9Rs are claimed to have been exported to South Africa; one in September and two in October. Another Volvo Group company, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles (VECV), is exporting its CVs to 25 countries. In this regards, Vinod Aggarwal, Chief Executive Officer, VECV, is known to have expressed that they are adapting the Pro series products according to specific country requirements. Aggarwal is also known to have mentioned that in South East Asian countries, the need is for better technology laden products that could compete with the Japanese products. VECV is thus adapting its products to address the specific needs and aspirations of those target markets.

A source close to Ashok Leyland revealed that the company is bullish about SAARC markets barring Pakistan. India’s largest bus manufacturer, Ashok Leyland has been catering to the Sri Lankan market through its local subsidiary Lanka Ashok Leyland for a long time. The company is known to have found a local partner in Nigeria to help with the assembly operations for buses. A similar arrangement is underway for the east African region. The operation capacities are expected to range between 2000 and 4000 units per annum. Ashok Leyland is also claimed to be chalking out plans to invade the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Latin American markets. Holding a 75.1 per cent stake in Optare plc., UK, Ashok Leyland has invested in a facility at Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, with a capacity to build 2,000 vehicles. If the Optare connection and Ras Al Khaimah facility reflect on Ashok Leyland’s exports aspirations, the company has won a USD 82 million (approximately Rs.521 crore) contract from Senegal to supply 475 buses as part of building Senegal’s comprehensive and integrated transportation system.


Lack of local prowess

As Indian CV manufacturers exert an export thrust, an interesting environment that they find themselves in is to compete with players that are of foreign origin; are from advanced markets of Europe, Japan, etc. A local player is often non existent. Pisharody is known to have commented on this, that there are no local commercial vehicles companies in many export markets, leaving them to compete with European manufacturers and those that are advanced market based. In such a situation, Indian companies seem to enjoy the price advantage with the support of products that are comparable or even superior in value terms. If companies like Nextmotive, which manufactures SCVs, are finding it advantageous to export to SAARC and African markets, it may be safe to assume that an Indian CV is well received, and has managed to make a good impression. The global markets, it said, have warmed up to Indian commercial vehicles.


The figures

What better way than to look at figures to understand the export drive of Indian CV OEMs. In the period between January 2015 and October 2015, 80,823 commercial vehicles were exported according to the SIAM data available. This marked a 13.4 per cent rise over the 71,303 numbers of commercial vehicles sold during the corresponding period last year. A closer look at the CV export data also reveals that a better gain was achieved beginning March 2015. September 2015 saw a dip with CV exports amounting to 7,672 units, a decline of (-) 5.95 per cent when compared to the sale of 8,157 units sold in September 2014. In October 2015, 8,168 units were exported marking a rise of close to 9 per cent when compared to the sale of 7,494 units in October 2014.


The march continues


Indian commercial vehicles are making in roads into new markets across the world. Their ability to match the specifications of competing products from manufacturers based in advanced markets is presenting them with a big price advantage. Indian commercial vehicles are turning out to be less costlier than those from the advanced market players by up to 35 per cent, claim some industry experts. The fact that some of the export markets are far behind in emission compliance, is actually leading to an amount of complexity at the Indian commercial vehicle manufacturer’s end. The quest for providing world-class commercial vehicles is not lost. It is in fact gaining momentum, albeit with an expectation that the conditions in the domestic market continues to improve. Exports are supportive no doubt, they are however not yet enough to offset the domestic slow down. The potential for exports therefore is immense

Volvo dump trucks for higher productivity, more gains


Two new 10×4 dump trucks from Volvo on the FMX platform reflect technology and innovation for higher productivity and more gains.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia


Volvo Trucks entered the Indian market in 1996. It zeroed in on a site on the outskirts of Bangalore to build modern trucks. Two decades later almost, it has launched two dump trucks that threaten to blur the boundary between a 100-tonne dump truck and a 31-tonne premium heavy duty tipper. Addressing the demand for higher productivity and more gains, these dump trucks are based on the tried and tested FMX premium heavy duty tipper platform. According to a Volvo Trucks India official, they were developed to address a need for an efficient machine that was not as big or as demanding as a dump truck, nor was it as small or less accommodating as a heavy duty tipper. Born out of the Volvo’s ability and experience, on a rigid tipper chassis with five axles and a payload capacity of 60-tonne, the dump trucks are called FMX 520 and FMX 480 respectively.


Big and burly

The FMX 520 and FMX 480 are powered by a 520 hp, 13-litre six-cylinder Volvo D13 engine mated to a 14-speed fully synchronised splitter-range manual transmission with an oil cooler. This engine also powers the Volvo FH 520 puller, and puts out a torque of 2400 Nm @ 1050-1400 rpm. The 10×4 configuration means that out of the five axles, two axles are driven. The first two and the fifth axle are steerable on the FMX 520. On the FMX 480, the first three axles are steerable. Measuring 10,105 mm in length and 4,130 mm in height, the two heavy duty front steerable axles (three on FMX 480) help with not just high ground clearance but a high load carrying capability with their I-beam design. The steerable fifth axle on the FMX 520 is also referred to as a pusher axle with electronically programmable pneumatic suspension which ensures right load distribution across the vehicle under the given gross weight. Additional protective cover on the air suspension bellows make them more reliable to use in the mining conditions. A straight I-beam design, the pusher axle is steered through electronic actuation and hydraulic assistance. The rear tandem drive axle ensures optimum traction and pulling ability. The reduction at the hubs takes place via four planetary gears, and results in an uniform load distribution.


Made for a hard life in mines

The chassis of FMX 520 and FMX 480 is made up of a robust C-channel section side members made of high strength steel. There’s full length inner reinforcement, the thickness of which is 5 mm. The front section of the chassis is bent outwards to accommodate the cab and engine, and has the same thickness of 8 mm in the web and the flanges. The front closing member with a central heavy duty towing device can sustain a lateral pull or push of up to 32-tonnes. The cab, engine, transmission and chassis cross member provide extra ruggedness to the chassis for tough off-road applications.

The superstructure on the 10×4 FMX 520 measures 26.1 cu. m., and that of the 10×4 FMX 480 measures 24 cu. m. Claimed to be capable of enhancing the productivity in line with the increasing demands of coal production, the FMX 520 offers 33 per cent higher capacity compared to the 8×4 solutions available in the market. The FMX 480 offers 28 per cent higher capacity. Developed with an eye on the government’s plans to double the coal production to one-billion tonnes by 2020, unique about both the dump trucks is the cab mounting and the engine mounting. The four-point engine mounting is optimised to reduce vibrations and improve road handling. Neither of the dump trucks are expected to ply on the road; they do not conform to the 49-tonne ceiling on trucks set by the Indian government, limiting their use in mines only. The four-point cab mounting includes the use of coil springs and shock absorbers.

Also unique about the suspension is the design of the front axle. The leaves lie flush with the each other only in the middle and at the ends. These ensure that the friction between leaves is less, providing a smooth and comfortable ride. The springs leaves are made from special steel. Their dimensions ensure that the load is evenly distributed over each cross section of the leaf. Riding on 12-24 cross ply mining tyres, the FMX dump trucks, according to Pierre Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo Group Trucks India, are a result of significant investments in bringing in new products keeping in mind the growth in coal mining. Vinod Aggarwal, CEO, VE Commercial Vehicles, said, “We believe in creating and delivering value to our customers with our comprehensive offering to help them improve upon their productivity and profitability. The comprehensive offering also includes Volvo’s aftermarket on-site support with more than 130 touch points. Aggarwal drew attention to Volvo Financial Services, which aims to meet the customer financing requirements.


While the tipping gear on the FMX 520 is from Mithra Kyokuto, the one found on the FMX 480 is from Hyva. It is a 5-stage hydraulic tipping cylinder provided with knock off valve limiting the tipping angle to 45 degrees. This is claimed to create less hydraulic pressure in the system. Aimed at overburden application, the two FMX dump trucks are equipped with a Volvo patented Volvo Engine Compression brakes (VEB+) for safer driving. Safer driving is also taken care of with a cabin that is spacious and comfortable for putting in long working hours. The availability to Volvo’s unique Dynafleet telematics system adds to safety. It also adds to efficiency and security by enabling the driver to improve upon his fuel saving skills and for the fleet company to manage the fleet in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Pro 8000 marks Eicher’s quantum leap

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

Despite being an Eicher, the Pro 8000 feels quite unlike one. There-in lies the quantum leap.

It does not take long to notice. There’s something different about this truck. The height, the appearance, and the visual presence the truck seeks is quite unlike an Eicher truck ever. It flaunts an Eicher logo allright. Walk closer and the ‘L’-shaped head lamps draw attention. They are a far cry from the round or square twin beam head lamps an Eicher truck or a bus is known to possess. So, is this some kind of an illusion? It takes a while before an answer is found. To begin with, the tall cabin of the truck beckons. It marks a distinct departure from the lower height cabins of Eicher trucks. The wing-shaped grille looks like the only connection. The other bits seem to refuse to add up to the image. Ladies and gentlemen, the Eicher Pro 8000 that you see here is the company’s new flagship. Marking a high point in the journey that began with the Volvo Group and Eicher Ltd inking a joint venture in 2008, the Pro 8000 looks beyond Eicher’s dominance in the 9- to 16-tonne category and Volvo’s presence in the premium category. A result of Volvo bringing technology to the table and Eicher bringing frugal engineering, the Pro 8000 is the result of a pro philosophy according to Siddharth Kirtane, Head – Marketing, Volvo Eicher (VE) Commercial Vehicles. “It is about professional processes and abilities, higher payload and efficiency, superior uptime, and better profitability,” mentions Siddharth.

Mid-premium approach

Walking closer to the two Pro 8000 tippers – one with a rock body and the other with a box body, reveals that these are solidly built machines. Called the Pro 8031T, they are equipped with a Hyva superstructure. Part of the Pro 8000 series, which includes a 25-tonne 6×4 tipper, 49-tonne 6×4 and 6×2 tractors, and a 250 hp 31-tonne 8×2 rigid truck, the Pro 8031T is a heavy duty tipper that aims at an emerging mid-premium segment. This segment calls for higher power and torque combination apart a higher degree of refinement and sophistication. Reflecting upon the fact, that it has been made to last long, the ‘L’-shaped lamps ironically remind those of the UD Quester. Found in Thailand and a few other South Asian markets prominently, the Quester is a new age truck to come from UD, which is also a Volvo Group brand. UD was born out of the acquisition of Nissan Diesel by Volvo.

Placed at either corner of a deep bumper finished in a shade of black, the ‘L’-shaped lamps lend a distinctive appearance to the truck. The upper portion of the cabin is painted in a bright shade of yellow or red, leading to a nice contrast. Measuring 3770mm in height, the plastic bits indicate a mid-premium positioning. The Pro 8031T looks a notch above what has been coming out of Pithampur. It gets fairly close to what has been coming out of Hoskote, indicating a quantum leap for Eicher. Modern and distinctly upmarket in its appearance, worth noting is the stubby turn indicator on the door. It goes well with the look. Quite unlike what has come out of Eicher till date, the Pro 8000 is a sea change. Siddharth mentions, “This product was conceived on the basis of low operating cost, more revenues and higher profitability.

Volvo’s Asia truck platform

Having a 50 per cent local content as of now, the Pro 800 is the first Eicher truck to be made at Hoskote. It is made using Volvo’s manufacturing technology and processes. Based on Volvo’s Asia truck platform, which is also referred to as the Volvo Group value truck platform, the cabin of Pro 8000 is sourced from Thailand. The rear axles are from Fuwa, and include hub reduction for tipper application. The 9-speed manual transmission (ST1199) is from Fast Gear, China. With a transmission oil cooler as an option, the Pro 8000 according to company sources sports the biggest chassis dimensions. Built to European standards, the cab complies with ECR929 strength test. Power comes from a 280 hp, 8-litre six-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine (with four-valves per cyl.) sourced from Volvo Eicher Powertrain Limited. Structured over a wheelbase of 4600mm (longer wheelbase versions are available on demand), the C-section long member aligns with Volvo’s specs, and is 300 mm tall. For tippers a reinforced member runs throughout the length of the chassis. Some of the advanced features the Pro 8000 comes with, include cruise control, advanced telematics (with driver times and fuel coaching). An audio system and an air-conditioning are standard.

Climb aboard, and a modern interior draws attention. The driver’s seat is suspended and 6-way adjustable. The cab is 4-point suspended. The sprawling dash looks modern, and has a two-tone finish. The centre console stands out with its different texture and colour. It contains an audio system, HVAC controls and a bank of switches. While a sense of space prevails, the cabin, with moulded roof, comfortable seats, carpeted floor and a sleeper bunk (even on a day cabin for the driver to rest during breaks), is modern. Look up and at the top center there is a storage cubicle. Below, the steering is adjustable and aids to arrive at a commanding driving position quickly. Ergonomics has been paid good attention. Also, comfort. Not much noise filters into the cabin; not the vibes either. The cab is well insulated. It is also carpeted. The clutch action is light and the gear shifter located within easy reach. Shift quality may not be car-like short and precise, it is not as stubborn or energy sapping either. A gate between 4th and 5th gear calls for the lever to be rocked to the extreme right when moving into a higher set of the gears, and to the left when changing to a lower set of gears.

Power prevails

A sense of power prevails. Good ability to pull is evident in each cog. A distinct character reflects from the way this truck drives. It feels robust and capable. The cruise control, like that of a car, has the tipper sticking to the set speed. Apply the brake, and it disengages. For an 8×4 rock body tipper that can achieve a maximum speed of 82 kmph, and has a payload capacity of 31-tonne, the braking action is highly progressive; overwhelming almost. A mere touch of the pedal is enough to shed speed in a hurry. Pick up speed out of a turn, and the truck accelerates smartly. The turbo whistle, evident. Keep the needle in the green band, and the tipper will provide good fuel efficiency. Engage the exhaust brake going downhill, and a retarding action will accompany a ‘whoosh’ sound. Clearly this one’s not about speed, but about carrying capacity, and the ease of doing it. Apart from a sense of solidity, this truck also presents a spacious and comfortable driving environment. The plying conditions may not be anywhere close to what a mine has to offer, the Pro 8031 nevertheless feels tough and modern. It feels like a tipper that will support a profitable business equation. Once again, the prospect of a quantum leap is brought to the fore. The Pro 8031T is so much unlike an Eicher truck I have known until now!

States Siddharth, that a tipper like this, which is used to carry overburden, will have a life span of five years. During these five years, fuel management assumes much importance. “The fuel coaching feature of the advanced telematics, which is integrated with the truck’s ECU”, explains Siddharth, “records the amount of time a driver is spending in the sweet spot (the green zone on the tacho). Apart from offering real-time driver guidance, unique is the uptime services the advanced telematics offers. It helps to achieve higher uptime.”

Mid-premium pricing

Priced in a region of Rs.45 lakh, the Pro 8031T does not take time to convey the fact that it packages Volvo’s engineering prowess and Eicher’s frugal engineering capabilities. It comes across as a truck that will take the Eicher brand to the next level. Work, it is clear, is cut out for the Pro 8031T and the men associated with it. The premium tipper market has been growing for some time. It has reached close to 50 per cent of what it was during the peak period. It is about time the other tipper categories start moving. Amidst the growing crowd of tippers, the Pro 8000 marks a quantum leap. From the way it looks, and from the way it is packaged and equipped. The way the Pro 8031T feels like to drive and operate.

Mahindra Truxo 37 for unorthodox trucking

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

The engineering prowess of Mahindra Truxo 37 lies in its ability to support unorthodox trucking.

Let’s face it: Unorthodox means unconventional. Unorthodox also means unusual. It does not long to recognise the unusual, nay unorthodox, looks of the Mahindra Truxo. It is them that makes the Truxo 37 stand out of the crowd. Even as the truck fades out of sight it takes an amount of time to lose the memory of how the Truxo really looks. The large imposing grille finished in a shade of matt black is the culprit perhaps. It makes an impression. The extension of matt black look to the bumper makes for a ‘mono’ grille look, which is in no way less distinctive. It grabs attention, period. It also presents imposing looks to the truck.

The twin beam head lamps set into the bumper hint at a modern construction. Also, does the big, glued windshield with a black surround. The fact that the windshield is glued also speaks about a modern manufacturing process involved in the making of this truck. If the lack of sharp edges stop the Truxo’s cabin from looking absolutely boxy, a closer evaluation will reveal that this truck flaunts good fit, finish standards. According to Shyam Ozarkar, General Manager – M&HCV, Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturers, “Quality gates built at every stage of the manufacturing process ensure a quality build and superior fit, finish.” It is over an ‘U’-shaped assembly line at Chakan, Pune, that the Truxo 37 is manufactured. To watch a Truxo 37 take shape is quite interesting to say the least.

Taking shape

Work begins with the bolting of the long and short cross members. To facilitate easier assembly the chassis is kept inverted. The necessary components and aggregates are fed across the line at regular intervals. The supply is well regulated as it is not just the Truxo that is made here. It does not take long to notice that the work force is young and energetic. They are the outcome of an extensive training imparted by an in-house ‘school’ called Gurukul. Recruits are subjected to work benches that simulate the working conditions on the line at various stages. They are also trained to work on a moving line to be able to adhere to the takt time. “Extensive class room and dexterity training is imparted,” explains Ozarkar. As the chassis rolls down the line, various brackets are bolted to it; suspension and other aggregates are attached. With the help of a band hoist, the chassis is turned around at one point in the process. This facilitates the fitting of the drivetrain, which is sourced from an assembly operation a few feet away from the final assembly shop. Apart from trucks, the youngest and biggest Mahindra plant (3.5 times of the size of the Kandivali and Nashik plant combined), and spread over 2.8 million sq. m., manufactures a variety of products including the Maxximo mini-truck. The new TUV300 compact SUV is also made here, though in a different shop. The diverse range of products made here highlight a sharing of common utilities like the press shop, body shop and the paint shop.

Progressing to the fitting of electricals and electronics (engine harness, etc.), braking system and various other bits including the wheels (the spare wheel is also attached at this stage), it is after the U-turn that the fully-built cabin is lowered on to the chassis and carefully attached. Since the cabin is fully suspended, it calls for careful anchoring of the four-way damper elements. A sub-assembly line in the vicinity assembles cabins as they are received from the paint shop. Of the two paint shops, the one that caters to the truck cabin is bigger according to Ozarkar. It can execute 12 jobs per hour. The cabin, starting its journey ath the press shop and the body shop, has its skin pannels handled carefully to ensure optimum fit, finish standards. A ‘Ro-dip’ CED process protects against corrosion over longer periods. Engineered to execute nine jobs per hour, the final assembly has fluid filling stations and testing stations at the end. The last two stations conduct wheel alignment and shower test.


A walk around the Truxo 37 reveals that it is well built. Hinting at a modern composition, this truck’s market positioning is
mid-premium. Aiming at those who are looking for higher payload solutions, on either side of the cabin, and closer to the rear are cubicles. They can store the jack and other tools used to change the wheel. They can also store the driver’s belongings as well. A latch inside, and near the door provides access. Climb inside, and a modern interior reveals itself.

The large sweeping dashboard looks modern. The surface texture may not be as plush, it is not deviating from a modern approach either. Modern and inspiring the dash looks. An eye sore are the blanks where the HVAC system should have been. The glovebox can hold a fair deal of stuff. For more, there are cubicles at the top. Look up, and apart from the storage rack, two ceiling fans come into view. According to GVS Prasad, DGM – Product Planning, Truck & Bus Division, a survey carried out, indicated that the drivers liked a fan over a blower assembly. HVAC with air-con is available as an option. The moulded roof and a sleeper bunk behind the seats contribute towards the modern construction of the truck. They also hint at the attention paid to comfort and ergonomics. The driver’s seat is suspended, and the steering is adjustable. The instrument console is made up of two large dials, two smaller dials (one of which indicates the air pressure), a bank of warning lamps and a LCD readout.

On the move

Crank the 170 hp, 7.2-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and not much vibration or noise filters into the cabin. Prasad points out, “The cabin floor has been effectively insulated.” Shift into first, turn off the parking brake, and move out of the bay. The shift quality of the 6-speed manual gearbox may not be in the same league as that of a car, it is way ahead of the transmissions found on some of the older generation trucks. Clutch action is light and the driving position is commanding. Moving out of the narrow bay does not pose any difficulty. The power assisted steering helps manoeuvre. States Prasad, “When the Truxo 37 was engineered over the Truxo 31, we concentrated upon the ability to carry more load. The bay at the Reliance plant at Hazira for example, is ‘tight’, and drivers find the Truxo easy to manoeuvre over some of the other 37-tonne trucks”. The front two steerable axles help as well. What is also proving to be of advantage is the powerful nature of this truck. In a category where the engines range between 5 and 6-litres, this is perhaps the only truck that offers a 7.2-litre engine.” It does not take long to notice that the Truxo 37 is a powerful truck; has a better pulling ability. The truck accelerates well even in higher gears. If the mirrors provide a good view of the surrounding, the large windshield offers a good view of what is at the front.

Even when accelerating there’s no vibration or noise that intrudes; clearly not at a level where conversing with Prasad who is accompanying me is an issue. Not only are we able to converse easily, a sense of ease prevails. Enough to provide an idea of how drivers will appreciate the level of comfort and convenience on offer. If these indicate the trappings of a modern truck, the equation of power and performance add to it. What adds as well, is the equation of fuel efficiency. Claims Prasad, “In the tests that we carried out, it was found that the Truxo 37 is 8 to 10 per cent fuel efficient than the competitors,” Ozarkar reasons, “Fuel efficiency ranks at the top of the requirement list of the buyers in this segment, followed by issues like tyre wear and higher uptime.” The rear tag axle presents the opportunity to achieve better fuel efficiency when carrying less load. A hardy machine the Truxo 37 is. There is no doubt that it is engineered to satisfy the many growing needs of the operator. The Navistar joint venture may be history, the trappings of a world-class truck are not lost. While it is surprising to note that some of the manufacturing culture from the (defunct) Renault joint venture has also found its way into the manufacturing culture at Chakan, and is ensuring significant quality and process improvements, the Truxo 37, there is no doubt, is well-built and capable. As the trucking culture decouples itself from the tendency to overload, and move up to accommodate modern trucks with world-class technology, the Truxo 37’s ability to carry more, legally, frugally and quickly, is put into perspective by Atin Moulick, Senior Manager – Marketing, Truck & Bus Division. He remarks that over 350 Truxo 37s have been sold till date.

Tata Ace grows up; turns Mega

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

Tata Ace has grown up in more ways than one. It’s called the Ace Mega.

Tata Ace has grown up. It is now called the Ace Mega. Inching closer to the SuperAce, Ace Mega aims at those who want to carry more, avail better fuel efficiency, and have the ability to turnaround quickly. Coming across as a bit of a cultural shock, after watching the Ace grow from strength to strength for over a decade, the Ace Mega is set to add a new dimension to the Ace family. Both, in terms of performance, and payload carrying capacity. Also part of the equation are qualities like an upmarket stance and a robust build.

Mega appeal

Painted in an attractive shade of metallic Azure blue, the Ace Mega retains the appeal of the Ace. It looks as cute or toy-like. Just that it feels like it has grown up in all directions almost. In a way, it has. Walk closer, and the cabin looks bigger than that of the Ace. It actually is not. Walk to the rear, and the cargo tray looks longer and wider than that of the Ace where upon it is not longer or wider. A sense prevails that the Ace has grown up, helping to understand the fact that the Ace Mega can carry 1-tonne over Ace’s 800kgs. Connection with the Ace is kept alive by the leaf spring suspension all-round. Like the SuperAce however, the Ace Mega is equipped with 165 R14 radial tyres. If this explains the 175 mm ground clearance and a gradeability of 30 per cent, the leaf spring suspension presents the Ace Mega with an ability to handle the rough with the smooth. If the SuperAce is about speed and comfort, the Ace Mega is about the ability to carry more than the Ace; at higher speeds, economically and over less than ideal surfaces. A closer look at the chassis provides a fair idea of the efforts that went into making the Ace Mega robust. Company sources claim that the chassis has been reinforced to account for the higher payload carrying capacity. The cabin has been reinforced as well.

Unlike the Ace where one can easily slid into the driver’s seat, in the Ace Mega one may need to climb into the seat almost. If this provides a reason to think that the Ace has grown up, the cabin feels roomier. The hump between the seats may rob the cabin of some space, it also indicates that below it is the engine. Over the Ace’s 16 hp, 800cc two-cylinder in-direct injection diesel engine, the Mega Ace gets a 40 hp, 800cc two-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine. Longitudinally arranged, the lightweight aluminum engine is BS III (BS IV will arrive in January 2016) emissions compliant. Power is routed to the rear wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission. One more cog (over the Ace’s 4-speed gearbox), apart from extracting better fuel efficiency, also aids to achieve higher operating speeds. The Ace Mega is capable of a top speed of 90 kmph over the 60 kmph top speed an Ace can achieve. Fuel efficiency is claimed to be in the region of 18.5 kmpl. Under real-world operating conditions, it is expected to be in the region of 15-16 kmpl. To account for a higher top speed and load carrying capability, the brake system is equipped with discs at the front and (254 mm dia.) drums at the rear. The braking system is servoed, and includes a 7-inch vacuum booster. To address the growing needs of a typical driver-operator in the category, the Ace Mega gets an ergonomically located driver console, lockable glovebox, provision for a music system, mobile charging port and a digital clock.

Comfortable and easy to drive

The large front windshield makes it easy to even spot a rat running across! Apart from the large front windshield, credit for a commanding driving position should also go to the ergonomics. Ergonomically well engineered, the engine cover between the seats does tend to rob the cabin of some space, it does not quite succeed in presenting a sense that this cabin is bigger than that of the Ace and roomier. Seating position is comfortable, and accompanied by good amount of legroom, shoulder room and head room. If the fabric seats help with an upmarket look, the dash is simple and a bit utilitarian. The instrument cluster is at the centre, and below it, is the digital clock, charging port and head lamp leveller switch located. In what looks like a mini centre console, there’s a provision for the music system too.

Waking up to an amount of noise, the engine tends to be a bit noisy. Its typical of an aluminium unit. While the noise is not as intrusive on the move, the need for more sound insulation is felt nevertheless time and again. A thick foam pad on the floor works towards isolating vibrations. They are ably kept out. Not so much about noise however. Taking off away smartly in the first gear, it does not take long to understand that the first and second gear is about the ability to pull. They are taller than the rest. Quite responsive in comparison to the Ace, despite the absence of a tacho, it is aparent that this vehicle generates good amount of torque (94 Nm @ 2000-2500 rpm) at lower revs. The engine is not exactly rev happy, it is instead quite responsive. Push the ‘drive-by-wire’ pedal, and the Ace Mega gathers speed fairly quickly than the Ace is capable of. On a rough stretch, a sense of robustness is had.Manoeuvring is easy but the need for a power steering is felt. The ride, not as plush as that of the SuperAce, has a firm edge to it. A sense of strength and robust built emenates through. For certain, the Ace Mega feels like a grown up Ace.

‘Proper’ pick-up?

Aiming at those who want more than what the Ace can deliver, the Ace Mega, like the SuperAce treads into the pick-up category. According to R. Ramakrishnan, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy & Planning, and Customer Value Creation — Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, the Ace Mega is in many ways a ‘proper’ pick-up. An addition to the Ace family, which commands an estimated 70-80 per cent of the small commercial vehicle market, the Ace Mega may find the going smooth. Even though it is aiming at a market that is going through a dull period, the name, the Ace has earned for itself, it can be assumed, will work in favour of the Ace Mega. Addressing the changing needs of small commercial vehicle operators who apart from a dull environment also continue to face funding hurdles, the Ace Mega, priced 10 to 11 per cent more, reflects an ability to help achieve better profitability. In line with R. Ramakrishnan’s opinion that migration is happening from SCVs to more feature laden and capable pick-ups, the Ace Mega elevates the reach of the Ace family. Indicating a shift in the last mile transportation model, the Ace Mega adds a new dimension to what is claimed to be the most voluminous CV brand in the world. Not to overlook the tendency of operators to overload, the Ace Mega, as a robust mini-truck, presents the operator the ability to achieve more. At Rs.4.31 lakh,
ex-showroom, Thane, the Ace Mega indicates that its maker is well aware of the changing dynamics of the market.


Renault takes the wraps off the Alaskan pick-up

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

About playing hard and working hard, the Alaskan reflects Renault’s aspirations to be a top global LCV player.

The name Alaskan is long associated with a sturdy dog breed, Alaskan Malamute. With a formidable nature and structure, Alaskan Malamute was originally bred for hauling freight because of its strength and endurance ability, often as a sled dog. Over the years of its existence, Alaskan Malamute has also come to be trained for recreational pursuits. The dual role the Alaskan Malamute has come to play is what is expected of the Renault Alaskan too; about playing hard and working hard. Unveiled in the form of a show car (which is very close to the production model) at Paris in front of 150 motoring journalists from 25 countries including India, the Alaskan reflects Renault’s Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) business aspirations. With production set to commence in mid-2016 at Barcelona, Mexico and Cordoba, the Alaskan marks Renault’s second pick-up after the Duster Oroch, which was unveiled in Buenos Aries in June 2015. The Duster Oroch is a 1/2-tonne pick-up and the Alaskan is a 1-tonne pick-up. Drawing from the extensive pick-up truck knowhow of alliance partner brand Nissan, the Alaskan is heavily based on the new Nissan NP300 Navara pick-up that debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. It is also claimed that the same platform would form the basis of a Mercedes-Benz pick-up due in 2017. Highlighting Renault’s need to enter into partnerships to be a top global player in the LCV business, the Alaskan is set to play an important role when it arrives mid next year. According to Ashwani Gupta, Vice President & Global Head of Renault’s Light Commercial Vehicles Business, Renault wants to be a top global player in the LCV business from being a top regional player. “We are now equipped to take our global growth plan forward and fulfill the aspirations of business users and individual LCV customers across the world, thanks to an enhanced product line-up, new services and an upgraded customer experience,” he said.

The Alaskan

What draws attention foremost is the Alaskan’s imposing front grille with the big Renault logo at the centre. The grille is in line with the business looks many new Renault models are coming to flaunt, including the Kwid compact SUV. LED head lamp clusters, integrated on either side of the grille, are encased by sweeping C-shaped daytime running lights. Contributing to the muscular and what looks like a visually heavy and robust build, the Alaskan sports vast 21-inch dia. wheels. Placed within their gently bulging wheel arches, they provide some mini monster truck excitement. In a twin cab guise, the ‘show’ pick-up has intricate LED tail lamps on either side of the load bay gate. Apart from the detailing of the wheels, the production vehicle may lose out on the door mirrors fitted with cameras and front fog lights with integrated towing hooks.

The dci 190 written on chrome indents built into the flanks indicate a 190 bhp four-cylinder version of a twin turbo diesel engine that is already being used in the Renault CV range. Equipped with a switchable 4WD, the Alaskan is a monocoque construction. Sticking to the rules of the segment, including impressive dimensions and a visual sense of power and robustness according to Laurens Van Den Acker, SVP – Corporate Design, the pick-up also carries specific Renault cues in the form of front-end design. Expressed Laurens, “It is quite robust even though it is a mono body design.” Looking at its pick-ups to provide a good amount of thrust, Renault is well aware that the pick-up market accounted for over five million sales in 2014. It is also aware that it is the expanding pick-up market, which has been the primary contributor to the growth of global LCV market. Made up of three categories — a 1/2-tonne pick-up, 1-tonne pick-up and a full-size pick-up, t he ½-tonne pick-ups command 3 per cent market share. The 1-tonne pick-ups command 17 per cent market share, and the full-size pick-ups command 18 per cent market share. In US and Canada, the full-size pick-ups command 90 per cent of the market.

LCV strategy

Adding a formidable edge to Renault’s aspiration of becoming a top global (LCV) player is its leadership status in vans. It is a leader in Europe since 1998. It is number one in North Africa since 2010. It ranks among the top three in South America since 2008. Present in 112 countries, Renault’s van operations are supported by 400 certified convertors (body builders). These convertors are spread across Europe, South America and Australia, and help Renault buyers build a van structure that most suits their business needs. Typical applications across the range include a panel van, double cab, platform cab, passenger version, crew cab, chassis cab, box van, tipper, chassis cab dropside, master combi, bus (that seats up to 17 people), maxi van, etc. The platforms on which the structures are build, include the Kangoo (Kangoo Z.E zero emissions is sold in 45 countries), Trafic and Master. Of the three the Master is perhaps the most diverse, and is available in different wheelbase, dimensions, drive orientation (front, rear and 4×4), etc. Unusual among the Renault LCVs is the single-seater Twizy Cargo. It is a zero emissions LCV, which aims to address last mile connectivity.

Associating with Daimler, GM Europe, Renault Truck and Fiat, the French automobile major, at its Sandouville plant in France will start building a Trafic-based Fiat LCV from mid-2016. Banking on an assertive product and market offensives while building solid partnerships and enhancing customer experience, the company, aware of the fact that over 14 million LCVs were sold in 2014, reconfigured its LCV business as Renault Pro+. With 80 per cent of the world’s population expected to be online, Renault, said Gupta, is also offering a new digital experience. Fabien Goulmy, LCV Expert – Brand General Manager, Renault Pro+, reasoned that they are stressing upon tailor made, ingenious innovation and easy experience. “We will use the Renault Pro+ as an expert brand to meet the needs of our LCV customers. The customer experience we offer will be enhanced by our bespoke knowhow, and by strengthening our offer in terms of products and services,” averred Goulmy.

In case of Asia, Renault is closely monitoring the developments. It is evaluating if the Duster Oroch ½-tonne pick-up will succeed. Gupta is well aware of the proliferation of micro and mini trucks in India. He is also aware of the changing needs and aspirations of the Indian LCV buyers. He is confident that a transformation will take place, and enough to suit products like the Alaskan. Apart from pick-ups, Renault is also monitoring the Indian market for its vans. Until the Indian market is ready to accept such Renault offerings, the French auto major has work cut out for itself. To concentrate on pick-up intensive Asian markets like Thailand and Indonesia. To convince more people in Europe to buy pick-ups.


Ashwani Gupta, Vice President & Global Head of Light Commercial Vehicles Business, Renault.

Now that you have unveiled your second pick-up, what are your LCV plans for India?

I will not be able to share today what are our LCV plans for India. What I can say precisely is that the products offered by the LCV business are highly professional centric. They originate out of customer usage, which comes from three things – payload, cargo volume and total cost of ownership. The day we realise these three things are evolving in any environment, we are ready to enter. This is about our vans. We have just launched the first pick-up (Duster Oroch) and will be launching the second pick-up (Alaskan) soon. We will evaluate market by market. Some markets play hard, some markets work hard. I don’t think we have the kind of adaptability needed to address the Indian market. We are however aware that a market does not take much time to evolve. Today, US is following the European vans; China is also following the European vans. There are two reasons – urbanisation of logistics and evolution. As urbanisation of logistiscs evolves further, more and more people will opt for panel vans. In case of a pick-up, it will depend on whether it is for material usage or people usage, or both. In South America, the usage is more of material. In Europe, it is more of people and less of material. That is exactly why we decided not to launch the 1/2-tonne pick-up in Europe. We launched it in South America. We are closely monitoring the Indian LCV market.

What role would Asia play for Renault, and within Asia, what role would India play?

Pick-ups are almost global when we talk about 1-tonne. I think Asia-Pacific is going to drive our busines on pick-up. Talk about Australia for instance. We have a great brand, and pick-ups are highly aspired by the Australians. The 1-tonne pick-up market is great in Thailand. We are looking market by market therefore. I am a bit cautious when it comes to vans. Taste about vans differs from country to country. It was therefore challenging for us to go global with just panel vans. It is because of this that we have the Master localised in Brazil. We have all the three products localised in France, which are European in taste. We wanted to have global products over a regional product like Duster Oroch, which can go into these markets. What is missing from our range as a full fledged LCV player are the micro trucks and micro buses. Micro trucks and micro buses are the solutions if one wants to enter into some Asian markets. Korea, for example, is an European van based market. We have a global picture, and we know which country and which region is evolving, and how far. India for certain will evolve with the logistisc challenge. We have seen evolution. We have seen Twizy Cargos parked in front of shops in Paris. India will certainly evolve, and the main driver will be the professional customer. They will start understanding the total cost of ownership. And we have seen it in heavy duty vehicles. Ten years down the line, drivers are having a say in what they want to drive. More and more the economy grows, the purchasing intention also grows. The driver or the professional customer gets to influence the buying decision of the vehicle while going from big fleets to smaller ones, most of which are owner driven. In case of small owner fleets, total cost of ownership gains importance. This will lead to a change.

What do you find are the constraining factors for market evolution of LCVs and pick-ups in particular?

The average cost of a passenger car in India is higher than an average cost of a car in Europe. The average cost of an LCV in India is lower than the average cost of an LCV in Europe. The day this gap is filled, European products will find a place in India.

Could India not serve as an export base for Renault to serve the Asean region, and considering the Oradagam plant?

Yes, India could serve as an export base for the Asean region. We are open to all kinds of study. I believe that India is not prepared for products like these (Alaskan), but that does not mean it will never be prepared. We therefore have to be careful when we look at the export solutions. These are not really answering all the customer needs. The best business case to look at is the heavy duty trucks. They have really answered the customer needs. The buses are now called by their brand. That’s what is needed.

Does it make a business case for Duster Oroch given the high reputation Duster has gained in India?

We will for certain consider such a development. The main challenge in India was to build the brand. We have achieved it, and we can now introduce products. We are in fact introducing the products.

Tata Motors’ Winger is based on an earlier Renault van platform. Tata is said to be testing a newer van platform, which is also a Renault van platform. Given your strategy for partnerships, how do you look at this?

It’s open. We are open to partnering with Tata Motors. You could check with them.


Laurens Van Den Acker, SVP – Corporate Design, Renault.

Over the Duster Oroch, the Alaskan looks much futuristic. Does that indicate a definitive change in design strategy?

In case of the Alaskan, we had a little bit of liberty. We could start with a white sheet of paper for the whole front-end. So, it was exactly what we wanted.

Does the Alaskan share its platform with any other vehicle?

It is an alliance platform that Nissan uses as well for their 1-tonne pick-up. This makes good business sense.

What does it take to amalgamate the mechanicals with the intended form?

Even before we start designing, we spend a year with the product planners and the engineers to define what the needs of their customers are. What kind of architecture platform could potentially fufill these needs. And, this creates a brief; a blue print of where the engine needs to be, where the cabin needs to be. Thus, we do not start to design in space. We have a white sheet, but we have some points to extract. It is the same in this case (Alaskan). We know that we are not artists; a design needs to work, it needs to fit in. We have many requirements to fulfill of which design in an important part but not the only one.

How do you use the inputs you get to turn out a design that will meet diverse taste?

Designing a vehicle is a highly collaborative process. To create a design it is not that we wait until the engineers have done their bit, then we do our bit and pass it through to the marketing department. I think good cars happen because designers worked very closely with the engineers. We (designers) were able to influence; we were able to say a little bit more to the left or to the right. When we worked with product planners, we were able to negotiate. Best cars, I think, are of those companies that make the best trade-offs between different competencies. In a really good car, engineering has won, design has won, product planning has won, and the commercial guys at the end of the line will win as well.

How do you design products that cater to emerging markets?

A pick-up truck is a real tool-kit. It is a Swiss Army knife in a sense. It’s a vehicle that is tailor-made. That is why we tailor-made our brand for Renault LCV. It is a vehicle that adapts itself to the kind of needs of the customers. What is really interesting in a pick-up truck is that it goes from a life-style vehicle (that is prestigious, a flag ship and social strata enhancing) to a basic tool to get from A to B without breaking down and falling apart. What we are showing here is a ‘show’ concept. We want it to create a desire. We have therefore shown the highest end of the execution. We will however also give an honest tool that the market needs. We will be able to follow the needs of our customers.

So, what variants could we expect, depending on the client needs?

With this truck we will give every region and every customer what he needs. The truck is capable of going up or going down; becoming tough or prestigious. I think we will be able to satisfy our future clients. We went from having no pick-up truck to having two pick-up trucks next year. We went from having no SUVs to having nearly a full range. We try to be where the market is. Sometimes we try to be ahead of the market. You can see that with the Espace or the Kwid. With the Kwid we tried to be innovative in a segment where there has not been a lot of movement. We are hoping for the Kwid to receive a positive welcome. The truth lies with the customers, and we hope that they will like the vehicle.

How flexible is the Kwid in terms of derivatives?

We will do a Renault and Nissan version. The Kwid platform is thus quite flexible. If Kwid is successful as we hope, then it opens many doors to do many other vehicles. Kwid is a light and strong platform. It is a safe and modern platform. It is well under the 4 m length, which is important for India. There are not many vehicles under 4 m that are enormously attractive. When a car is born, and has genetically the right proportions; the wheels are in the right place, then a lot can be done about it. I hope we can do more (with the platform) than just the Kwid.

So, could the Alaskan pick-up platform turn out an SUV?

Yes. No platform today is created to make just one type of vehicle. It does not mean that we make all the derivatives. Because we depend on the success of the first ones to see if we can do more with a platform, no company develops a platform for just one variation. We have no SUV plans to be completely clear.

How do you connect Renault’s long tradition of making commercial vehicles with the future through your designs?

It is nice that we can start from a position of strength, and even though it is about utilitarian vehicles or commercial vehicles. We did not cover all the segments, but it is easier to go to a segment like a pick-up truck while being strong in commercial vehicles as opposed to having to start from scratch. We benefit from the experience and the legitimacy of our partner, Nissan. It is for us a new market, new segment and new region (with the Alaskan). It’s going to be tough. We will need to prove ourselves. We however don’t come to the table without guns. We have a proven platform. We have an existing infrastructure. The design challenge is fun. A pick-up truck is such fun that I did not have any problems in motivating my team.

What role do the design centers at Mumbai and Chennai play?

Alaskan was designed by a Japanese designer based at Paris. The Indian design team is occupied with the Kwid at the moment, and not just with the car but also the accessories. The design centers in India are working on India-based products. When we start a new competition, any body from any of our six studios around the world can contribute. The world is becoming small. Fifty years ago, Renault made French cars for France, which they exported. The situation has changed. Renault now makes cars for the whole world. Design talent, at the other end could come from anywhere. We have some very talented designers from India. We also have a designer from Mongolia, Hong Kong, Columbia, and Venezuela.

In which areas do you think Indian designers excel in?

The Indian design team has an extremely good sense for business. It seems that every Indian designer knows what works in the market, knows how we sell the car, knows about why people buy cars, why the parents are involved. I learn everytime I meet them. In terms of pure design skills, they lack a little bit. It is perhaps because the automotive culture is lacking. Growing up in Europe would account for exposure to premium brands; would entail seeing many generations of vehicles. Automotive culture in India is growing. A lot of Indian designers come to Paris for an amount of time. When they go back, they take with them the richness of experience. I am really impressed by the R&D and the engineers.

How big is your design team?

My design team is 500 people the world over. Of these 150 are designers. Most studios are in Paris.

SUVs were criticised some years ago for not being environment friendly and as fuel guzzlers. How do you look at the evolution of SUVs into ‘green’ automobiles?


SUVs were traditionally based on pick-up trucks. They were genetically heavy. What has changed their image is that SUVs and pick-ups have become mono body. They don’t have a ladder frame with the box on top. Huge progress has been made in terms of engine technology. They are much more frugal, economical and lighter. We are starting to see an evolution in US. The Ford pick-up F150, for instance, uses extensive aluminium. They have to reduce the weight. The challenge with the pick-up is that it has to be strong. It is therefore one of the last vehicles that is going to be ultra light weight. The Alaskan pick-up is more robust than a monocoque is known to be.