Climb aboard, and a modern dashboard greets the driver. The instrumentation is basic, but a centre console, which is also partly an enclosure for the engine, draws your attention. The engine is longitudinally positioned on the ladder frame with the drive going to the live rear axle. The ladder frame has 2.5 mm thick, long member and a 124 mm x 63 mm cross section to help with a tough built. A carpeted interior with fabric seats has an uplifting effect over the Ace’s rather functional interior. The seats come with head rests and a reclining mechanism. “We have been pioneers in SCVs. We did a cost benefit analysis and decided to offer features like head rests, which do not cost a bomb,” says Kumar. Drawing attention to features like power steering, a four-way reclining seats with head rests, and made of fabric instead of rexin, Kumar mentions that the Ace Zip is offered with a music system from Blaupunkt. “People appreciate this feature,” he states. Refuting a claim about blurring boundaries between SCVs and Pick ups, Kumar mentions that the Super Ace Mint is about performing various payload tasks and therefore the need for performance, lower operating costs, efficiency, etc. “While decals make a difference to an SCV buyer, for us it is about identifying the gaps and niches and provide a solution. It is about addressing geographic gaps, application gaps, etc.” Settling down to a steady idle, it is the good refinement levels that strike. The seating position is high and commanding. It is also comfortable with a good view ahead. It is clear that ergonomics has been looked into. It is also clear that Tata Motors wants to keep the customer in the family by offering him a plethora
A bright future
Aware that the SCV market continues to drag, and has got better in the recent times with negative growth shrinking to single digit figure, Kumar remarks that HCVs are growing, which is good news for SCVs. He adds, “Good news for SCVs is that HCV growth is not stemming from mining and infrastructure. It is stemming from growth in FMCG and manufacturing, which will augur well for SCVs as part of the hub and spoke model.” About freight rates, Kumar is clear that there is a discovery at every SCV terminus. “SCV owners lack bargaining power,” he says. Stressing that they (Tata Motors) exist for their customer, and want to give him or her a wider choice, Kumar is looking at the Super Ace Mint achieving decent growth numbers. If the next generation Ace will find much modularity engineered into it, the current generation will find value additions like CNG variants.
Though not a preferred fuel according to Kumar, CNG variants will be made available soon in the Ace Zip, Super Ace Mint and Xenon. Ace is already available in CNG, and also the passenger versions of the Ace and Ace Zip – the Magic and Magic Iris. An electric version of Ace, Iris and Magic are also available. Tata Motors, says Kumar, has EV technology. The issue is viability, he adds. Lack of infrastructure (charging points, etc.) and cost is an issue for hybrids and electrics. From an emissions stand point, Kumar states that BS4 fuel will be available in 2017. However a need for a holistic approach is necessary. It is also necessary, according to Kumar, to understand the fact that over 60 per cent of emissions come from coal powered plants. Thus the electricity the thermal power plants in India generate comes with a certain baggage. Stressing on a need for end-to-end solutions for trucks for alternate fuel propulsion, Kumar, pointing at the Ace, mentions that it is the largest single brand among commercial vehicles. “Ace does 8,000 units and the Ace Zip does 2,500 units. We are looking at decent growth for the Super Ace Mint, he reiterates.
At the Wadala truck terminus in Mumbai it is the start of yet another day. Trucks of diverse nature are about to embark on their next stage of journey. Engines rev as the trucks move out of their parking places. The Super Ace mint, amidst the crowd of trucks, small and big, makes an impression. The metallic shade has it looking premium. It is no doubt aimed at the aspirational lot.