Reinventing CVs

Nalin Mehta

Nalin Mehta,

Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Limited

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. What led to the creation of the Blazo?

A. We saw a clear indication that different applications required different fuelling cycles. We had a common-rail diesel engine with us. We were using it in a 40-tonne tractor-trailer. We were certain that to move to BSIV, we had to move to common-rail technology. Customer demand was to have flexibility. It could be such that he would travel without load. Even some of the very good transporters may run 20 per cent of the operation without load. Applications like tankers often return empty. There are different road conditions and load conditions. Car carriers are about volumes. There are those that load more; the ODC requirement for example. We thought of leveraging the electronic engine to cater to different requirements in the same product line. We had a 170 hp and 202 hp mechanical engine. We decided to address different preferences in one product line. We created drive cycles, which were appropriate to various applications. The challenge was to switch from one cycle to the other without causing trouble. Vehicle should not be stopped, and cycles changed on the fly. The driver should be able to press ‘Turbo’ mode when he encounters a gradient. He should press ‘Light’ mode when running empty. It took us one and a half year to optimise the engine. We tested the engine by installing it in some of our customer trucks. The outside world did not know that this was a multi-mode truck. Once we were confident we decided to launch the product.

Q. Apart from the engine, what other changes does the Blazo carry?

A. We light weighted the truck as it would improve the payload. We optimised the rear axle ratio. We specifically looked at two or three applications. We created a model for concrete mixer and a tipper. We reduced the wheelbase of our tractor (prime mover) to help our customers meet the new regulations for car carriers. We launched a 49-tonne tractor. We worked on the look of the truck. We worked on the air flow. The Blazo not only looks different, it also behaves differently. We did extensive fuel efficiency trials under the observation of CIRT and auditor E&Y. The Blazo was bench marked against competition trucks for fuel efficiency. The results gave us the strength to offer a guarantee.

Q. What was the prime customer requirement that was incorporated in the Blazo?

A. Roughly, 50 per cent of the cost an operator incurs is on fuel. The prime requirement was to provide fuel efficiency in different working conditions. Earlier the trucks were efficient in one particular condition. We felt the need to give flexibility to the transporter to improve turnaround time. If he is carrying perishable goods, or goods under refrigeration with the use of a slave engine, the need would be for quicker travel. He could choose to drive completely in ‘Turbo’ mode. Addressing such requirements of the customers, we felt, would give us a lead over others.

Q. Who helped you with the digitisation of engine?

A. Bosch did an excellent job of helping us to achieve the right calibration. It helped us with the three drive cycles as per our needs. We had collected a lot of road-load data. They (Bosch) did an excellent job of calibration for us. Senior Mahindra engineers drove the truck day and night to calibrate the vehicle. They drove around two-lakh kilometers. Since we took some of our customers in confidence and changed the engines in their trucks to the electronic multi-mode engine, we had a few thousand trucks running with the technology the Blazo offers even before it was launched.

Q. Did you work on NVH?

A. The electronic engine has translated into less vibrations. We did not do much in the direction of sealing even though we carried out some general improvements. We carried out ‘running’ improvements in the wiring harness, the propeller shaft, the chassis, the suspension, etc. We took much effort in making the Digital Information System (DIS). The fuel efficiency indication on the DIS is plus or minus two per cent. DIS can provide 5-7 per cent error. We did not want it to be such off the mark. The customer can depend on our DIS.

Q. The Blazo is not a single truck, but a range. What was the thinking behind it?

A. The Blazo stands for multi-mode. We would want people to remember the Blazo for its multi-mode. The ‘Fuelsmart’ technology of the Blazo (that offers three modes – turbo, heavy and light) is a Mahindra brand. We could continue with the ‘Fuelsmart’ thought process. ‘Fuelsmart’ technology is common to some of the Mahindra small commercial vehicles like the Maxximo, which has an Eco mode. We saw that the customer wants to differentiate technology, and not the GVW. The Blazo is a flagship offering.

Q. What about the Traxo, Torro and Truxo?

A. They will remain, and get phased out with BSIV implementation.

Q. So, the Blazo is BSIV compliant?

A. For BSIV emission compliance, we will have to add some after treatment. We will add it. Otherwise the Blazo is BSIV ready. We are the only organisation with 2000 trucks that has everything that a BSIV compliant truck will have. They are already running. Our competition will still have to prove their electronic engine in the market. We have a proven electronic engine in the market, which will only need an after treatment and some re-calibration.

Q. How costly is the Blazo over the older truck range?

A. The electronic engine is expensive. It gives superior value, and better fuel efficiency under different conditions. The cost difference is approximately a lakh and a half rupees.

Q. How do you plan to deal with the recent directive on AC truck cabins?

A. The intent to improve driver comfort is welcome. It comes at a time when BSIV development is on. BSVI implementation is also coming up by 2020. Nowhere in the world is an AC cabin mandated. Heating is mandated, but not AC. With 60-70 per cent of the sales amounting to cowl chassis, AC regulation would have done well to have come with the truck code. Fitting an AC on a cowl will be highly challenging. We are offering HVAC in our heavy trucks. The point is, is the industry at large ready? The second question is, what about the cowl chassis? At the supplier end, the supplier base will have to be alerted; will need to be made aware of. The driver needs an AC, long-haul trucks especially. The AC mandate could have been implemented in phases.

Q. Demonetisation has been challenging for transporters. How do see the road ahead for operators?

A. The first to hit the transport industry was the cash crunch. As good managers, transporters have managed. People are not spending money. Demand has gone down. I think, it is a temporary phase. Cash is short, and because of the lack of spending, consumption has come down. Transport industry has been hit. As a (CV) buyer, I would postpone my purchase. I will only purchase what is essential.

Q. Will pre-buying be affected?

A. Pre-buying will happen. There is a lot of time left; there are four months left. Typically pre-buying would have happened only in March; at the last minute.

Q. How many Blazos have you sold?

A. Blazo accounts for about 35 per cent of the trucks we sell. We have a fixed price policy on the Blazo. There’s a list price and a transaction price. The transaction price is fixed.

Q. What future do you foresee for the CV industry?

A. I have always said that if the country will grow, CV industry will also grow. If you produce, you have to transport. Policies in this have a limited role to play. The need is to transport. Road transport will continue to play a role in the growth of the country. If one believes in the India story, then he or she has to believe in the CV story. GST may change the structure of transportation, but it will not hamper the growth of the CV industry. India is a growing economy, and the CV industry will have a good future. GST will re-define the hub and spoke model. ICVs will play a bigger role. Consumption in rural areas will influence the role of ICVs. Spending on nutrition (perishable goods) will influence the scope of ICVs. As the economy grows, people movement will increase. India is a vast country. Railway cannot reach everywhere. The need for buses will be there. There will need to move much population in semi-urban and rural areas. ICVs – we are investing in a world-class ICV, will play an important role. This will be especially the case as consumption in the interior areas will increase.

Q. For ICVs, are you looking at trucks and buses? You already produce buses on LCV platform.

A. Our strategy will be to do buses where the same technology and chassis, with minor modifications can be used. We may look at producing longer and bigger buses on the ICV chassis. We are not going into multi-axle buses, or luxury buses. It is about different scale and technology. We are going into buses that are an extension of our current range. Once we do this, will we think. The ICVs we are working on will be completely new. The lineage will show. There is a lot of learning we have from the HCV range. There is a lot of learning we have from our current LCV range. That has been incorporated. We will field a new range of LCVs along with the ICV range. We will have a full range from 3- or 3.5-tonne up to 16-tonne. We will also have a MCV range. We would look at unveiling the new CVs in two and a half years.

Q. Would you be investing in new engines?

A. For ICV, we need new engines. We are going in for a 3.5-litre engine. This engine could be useful in other Mahindra products too. We are package protecting our range for BSVI and beyond. For the LCV range, you would see a new chassis, and a new driveline. The new LCV range will be definitely better than the current range that we offer. Despite being an aged product, our LCV has been highly successful. We command eight-to-nine per cent market share in the LCV segment. We are reasonably well entrenched in buses. With the ICV chassis, we will be able to offer a wider range of buses. We may not be a full range bus player, we will have a wider range for certain.

Q. What growth is Mahindra Trucks and Buses looking at?

A. We are hovering at around 3.5 per cent market share. I will be happy if we double our market share in two to two and a half years. We could look at further doubling our market share in another three years. It would amount to brilliant success even if we get close to these targets.

Q. Where others seem to find it tough, you have kept on going?

A. Our strength is that we are geographically well spread. We are well-spread segment wise. We are also well-spread product wise. It is not that we are doing extraordinarily well in tractor-trailors and terribly badly in some other segments. We have been growing our market share in a balanced way in the segments we are in. We are steadily growing our market share. We are steadily growing in all geographies. Our strength lies in the good spread we have managed to build, in terms of geographies, segments and products.

Q. A tough market that is attracting the attention of global players, what future do you see for the Indian CV market?

A. What happened in one particular decade in the car market will happen in the next ten years to the truck market. Global players will come in; there will be brand wars. There will be digitisation, and more. There is no stopping that since India is a promising market.

A. Many global CV players are looking at India as an export hub?

A. There are ways to look at it. One is a fully built truck. Such a product has got some logistical issues. So, one would look at neighbouring countries for export. A little further out, and it could be the African markets. It is necessary to see how different is the truck in those markets. The amount of work necessary to meet the market requirements. SAARC is more or less the same truck. Some parts of Africa are likely to require the same truck. We are at the moment concentrating a lot on the domestic market. We are selling substantially well in the SAARC markets; nine per cent of the HCVs we build are exported to these markets. In the case of LCVs, 14 to 15 per cent of them are exported to the SAARC markets. We are looking at Africa as a continent. We currently have right-hand drive configuration with us.

Q. Would you be looking at a local assembly operation for Africa foray?

A. It is too early to comment at this juncture. Our current priority is to grow in the domestic market, and to be a complete range player. We don’t want to divert our energy at this moment. There is a lot of engineering work to be done for India. Foray into Africa or the Middle East markets will call for more engineering. We will gradually venture out, but to comment on it at this moment will be premature.

Q. Are you looking at tapping into new developments like LNG and other alternate fuel mediums?

A. We will work towards electric buses. We demonstrated a hydrogen bus. We have the Mahindra Reva electric vehicle business in the Group. We have the capability to do electric vehicles. Here we are essentially talking about drive motors and battery packs. In bigger vehicles, battery packs are modular. We will be there in electric buses. Since they make an expensive proposition, they will be for the future. What I would like to state is that we are ready, and moving in that direction. It is difficult to judge how far this future lies. It depends on how the government will subsidise, or if the country is ready for it. The customer should be ready to pay for it. It will depend on how expensive pollution will become. It is difficult to be able to judge how the market will pan out. The environmental issue is serious, and we all owe the responsibility to curb pollution. It is necessary to research the extent of pollution caused by automobiles. There’s also the issue of traffic management. There may be a need to look at how much are the automobiles emitting, and if this can be eliminated by managing the traffic. A study is necessary to understand if CVs that are not loading or unloading should be allowed into a city. GST could also change the pollution scenario. To be precise, it is a complex issue. As an engineer, I feel that environment is an issue that needs to be tackled. However, it is not simple. It is not just one aspect, but a multitude of aspects. In the case of fuel, there could be an adulteration issue. There could be an issue with the quality of fuel we produce, with the distribution of fuel, with traffic management, driving habits, etc.

Q. With the Blazo you have been training drivers. Do you plan to establish a driver training institute?

A. There are two aspects to driver training. One is to create a new pool of drivers out of those who don’t know to drive. Second, is to create drivers out of those who have been driving by improving their driving habits. As of now, we are tackling the second aspect where there is a driver, and how do we make him a better driver. This is irrespective of whether it is for the Blazo. We conducted driver training for ex-army drivers. These drivers are not well verse with frugal ways of driving. They are trained for driving over rough terrains. These drivers need to be taught civilian bye laws. Over an army truck driver, a civilian truck driver has to deal with the situation on the road differently. We hold a five day program for training the drivers. We hold training programs when the army welfare society engages us. The driver training concerning the Blazo is about using the multi-mode. For the customer, the first few trips we are doing. We make certain that his fleet of drivers are trained. We sit with the driver and show him which mode to use when. As the Blazo penetration goes up, the need for driver training will decrease. A transporter will have his Blazo driver train the other drivers. Drivers don’t know their rights. A driver is often told of his duties, but never about his rights. We have stabilised the Mahindra transport awards. We have brought out some interesting elements like the ‘Mahindra Saarthi Abhiyan’ where-in we are providing scholarship for the driver’s daughter. The awards look at the transport industry. Through the awards we discover excellence. Consider the case of women truck driver Yogita Raghuvanshi. We are very happy to have given her a Mahindra truck. We also tie up drivers who come to own a truck with operators. We will earn from this industry, and therefore feel the need to forge long standing relationships. We see a need to build a win-win relationship.

Deciphering Cvs

img_7043-copy

 

Eiichi Seto, Managing Director & CEO, SML Isuzu Ltd.

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. What is your view on the Bus Code, and its implementation?

A. Bus body code is a good regulation for the industry which has been dominated by unorganised bus body builders for long. They are still not ready to accept the new regulations. We are however ready to meet the new challenges. The Bus Code is primarily for vehicle and passenger safety, both of which are important. The government needs to be appreciated for implementing the Bus Code.

Q. About your bus portfolio; any new products that you will be launching soon?

A. We will be soon showcasing three new products. These would include the Ecomax minibus for school, staff and tourist application. The Executive LX model is based on the S7 platform. The Ecomax will compete with Force Traveller. The Executive LX will aim at luxury and staff transportation. We have also introduced a new front fascia for trucks and standard bus models as an interim solution to improve the product image. We will soon start operation of a brand new pre-treatment and cathodic electro-deposition coating line for cabin and cowl at our paint shop based on Japanese technology. This will enhance anti-rust capability of our products. We have also introduced a new paint line at the bus body plant. This would help us to enhance the bus building capacity; that of S7 buses especially. We will be also increasing the production of Isuzu buses to 400 units per month.

Q. With so much activity underway at SML Isuzu, how do you rate the performance of the company?

A. The planned Rs.220 crore capex is still on. It is being implemented in a phased manner. In the last one year, we sold 8320 units of buses, which marks a 20 per cent rise over last year. Truck sales increased by 33 per cent. While bus sales have recovered, growth has largely come from trucks. With the view of growth, we are expanding our capacities by 25 per cent to 2000 units from the current 1500 units per month per shift. Our target is to achieve 7200 units for the second half of the year, and to achieve a total of 15,300 units for the year. We recently organised our dealer meet to understand the ground reality. The dealer meet was also held to understand the current market position. This would help us to analyse demand forecast of the bus market, and the sales prospect in the second half of this year.

Q. How is SML Isuzu gearing up for the upcoming emission regulations?

A. The demand for commercial vehicles in India is huge. Global players are expanding their operations in India. This will entail more competition. The BSIV vehicles will come with a price rise. There will be another, and substantial price rise when BSVI emission compliant vehicles are introduced. The motivation for operators to upgrade their fleet is likely to take a hit. There is a need to understand at this point, that the after-treatment devices for BSVI emission compliant vehicles are very costly. They could cost more than the engine. A matter of concern is the fuel. Also of concern is the urea fluid necessary to carry out SCR. If not of the prescribed quality, the vehicle will refuse to run. A huge infrastructure will be required to make available the prescribed quality of Adblue urea solution for BSVI emission compliant vehicles. The good thing is, the component suppliers in India will get a chance to expand their horizons and develop competitive product portfolio for BSVI emission compliant vehicles.

Q. What is the supplier involvement that you are witnessing?

A. The development of BSIV emission compliant vehicles is providing component suppliers a chance to upgrade themselves, to localise products, and to keep the costs down. We have already geared up for BSIV emission compliance. Pan-India implementation of BSIV emission norms has been pending for nearly five years now. Availability of fuel is still a big question, and remains unanswered. It depends heavily upon the government, which mainly owns the oil companies. For BSVI emission norms, a lot of products need to be imported from Europe. It is good that many component

and device suppliers are localising them.

Q. What about the short lead time to BSVI emission norms from BSIV emission norms?

A. We need to improve our environmental standards, there is no doubt. The time to move to BSVI emission norms from BSIV emission norm is however short. It therefore seems too ambitious. Isuzu already has technologies similar to EuroVI in Japan. The basic technology is available. It is however not localised for India. The big question is not the basic technology. Basic technology is already available. The question is fuel. The other is regarding the after-treatment devices like SCR and DPF, which nobody in India may be able to make by the set deadline of 2020. Meeting the deadline will call for importing. For suppliers it is very difficult to trust the government at this moment. Localisation of related products was delayed because BSIV emission norms took five years to be implemented. The same thing can happen for BSVI emission norms. Importing is against the ‘make in India’ concept. A big concern is the testing of vehicles. We will need to use new fuel to validate the vehicle. It is necessary that the validation is done by BSVI fuel made locally. The fuel has to be commercially available. If the fuel is different from what is made in Europe, it could pose a big challenge. A vehicle has to be tested for over a million kms across all seasons. This will take two years almost. I don’t think that the government will be able to provide BSVI fuel by 2018 for such periods of testing. To meet the 2020 deadline looks difficult.

Q. Wouldn’t it be difficult for suppliers to localise if there is no fuel available? How are you addressing supplier concerns?

A. It has been talked about for long in the industry. We are always discussing with our suppliers. We are discussing with them to make the vehicle compact and light in weight. After I joined SML Isuzu, supplier meets have been a regular feature. There is a meet scheduled for next month. At these meets, we communicate what we are going to do. We understand what the suppliers expect from us. They also get an opportunity to understand what our expectations from them in terms of quality, cost and delivery are. A lot of movement in the LCV business has occurred as ecommerce companies have picked up pace in India. I see a major change in costing due to the implementation of GST. Companies incur a lot of cost in the logistics. GST will also change the way products are distributed.

Q. STUs are procuring buses. What do you think of this trend?

A. STUs have begun working on the public-private partnership model. Growth can be had with this model too. Most STUs have their own bus body business. Redundancy will happen now that the Bus Code has been implemented. They are not hiring new people, and since they have a huge stock, they cannot stop abruptly. The STU business will slowly shift to private markets for both, inter- and intra-city buses. Fleet replacement has been on the cards, and once the norms to replace 10 to 15-year old buses comes into play, there will be a market shift. The number of buses will not shrink; buses will be bought by STUs or by their partners. On the contrary, numbers will increase, and the ownership pattern will differ. Government has also announced various rural connectivity schemes for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat whereby we will have smaller buses coming in from smaller centres to bigger district centers. Such movement will also see our class of buses being inducted into STUs which

other wise was only limited to bigger buses.

Q. Is the permit system limiting the growth of buses?

A. I don’t think so. For example, school buses fall under the Type IV of CMVR regulations for buses, and the permit-system is not limiting their demand. The safety of children travelling in the school bus is very important. At many places, autorickshaws are being used for school commitments. Delhi Government seems committed to prohibit old vehicles. Such a move can fuel growth moving forward.

Q. What is your opinion about alternate fuel CVs?

A. For CNG, we have a very good footprint in Delhi NCR where duty has to be paid for entry of diesel powered vehicles. Since it is regulated, CNG powered buses and those that are a part of the LCV segment are showing good growth. Demand for M&HCVs is not picking up pace yet as far CNG is concerned. Fuel availability is an issue. For electric vehicles, we are studying the ecosystem. It is not that easy. Cost and availability of batteries is a major factor apart from the non-availability of supporting infrastructure like charging stations. Our promoter Sumitomo in Japan, from where I have come, has a lot of experience in this segment. It has the biggest electric vehicle charging station network in Japan. Even then, there are limitations that we know of; mainly due to distance. In India, electricity is largely generated using coal. For school buses, there may be a good chance. People are showing interest.

Q. What changes will the implementation of GST bring?

A. For the car segment, GST rate has been fixed at around 18 per cent, but nothing is clear as far as the commercial vehicle segment is concerned. If it is fixed at 28 per cent, then it will be a big difference over 18 per cent for cars. At 28 per cent if one were to consider, there will be no big difference in the tax rate. With BSIV emission norms expected to be implemented from April 2017, overall vehicle cost will increase by almost Rupee-one lakh per vehicle, inclusive of taxes. A spike in demand is expected before the implementation of BSIV emission norms. In the case of GST, if the rate is kept at 18 per cent for commercial vehicles, then the price increase caused by BSIV emission norms will be absorbed. Hoping that this happens, many people will be willing to wait till April 2017 to upgrade their fleet.

Trendline

The development of BSIV emission compliant vehicles is providing component suppliers a chance to upgrade themselves, to localise products, and keep costs down.

Building buses

anil-baliga-copy

B Anil Baliga, Executive Vice President  – Bus & Application,  VE Commercial Vehicles Ltd.

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. The Pithampur plant is running at full capacity. How does that augur for buses?

A. We have geared up for a production run of 5500 numbers. We are doing about 6000 to 6100 units. We will be expanding the capacity to take the figure to around 7000 units. We will also be hiking capacity at our bus plant, which is about 25 km from the Pithampur plant. We make bus chassis at the Pithampur plant.

Q. How has been Volvo Eicher’s performance in the bus segment?

A. We have been doing well in the school and staff bus segments. We have been the market leaders in school buses for the last ten years. The staff segment, we have managed to built, and have a 29 per cent share of. Our share of the tourist bus segment and the road permit segment is 10 to 11 per cent. We want to take this share up to 28 per cent. That is the next growth story that we are looking at. Our share in the school and staff bus segment is almost at the level of 28 to 30 per cent.

Q. Aren’t the current permit structures limiting the growth of buses?

A. The (bus industry) is something like a hotel industry. You can’t do without it, and still need it. It does not get affected significantly by the economic downturn. You will find a lot of players jumping into buses. Not that they have a lot of love and affection for it, they are here because it provides great support during the downturn.

Q. Many players have not been able to enter the bus segment. Is it a tough industry to crack?

A. People at Volvo say that if you haven’t got buses you do not know how difficult it is to sell them. Buses as body with chassis are a complex phenomenon. There is a need to look at the chassis part, and the body part. Cumulatively it has to deliver. It is easy to make a truck. To make a bus calls for twice the effort. The challenge lies in meeting the parameters of the customer; the comfort parameters – seating comfort, ride comfort, NVH, etc. The bus should deliver on fuel efficiency. The operating conditions of buses are highly different. A school bus, for example, travels 150 km at different speeds than a route permit bus does. A route permit bus travels at 90kmph until it stops and regains the same speed. Route permit operators ask for quicker acceleration, which changes their fuel consumption pattern significantly. The efficiency pattern changes significantly under such operating conditions. Tyre wear and brake wear are some of the issues that gather significance. Subjected to overloading, the road conditions at times are not good. At 90kmph, a route permit has got its own set of issues, and has to be designed accordingly. In the case of a staff bus, the requirement is for low noise levels. Each bus is so distinct from each other, that the chassis at times differs a good deal. Drivetrain is different. Demand for air-conditioned bus is rising. These buses call for more horsepower. Where 90kW used to suffice, the demand is now for 110kW. Some even want higher output – 120 hp, 130 hp, 140 hp, and more. The market dynamics are changing quickly, and the marketplace is fiercely competitive. The players are grasping for breath.

Q. How do you look at the inter-city bus transport scenario?

A. In the lean period the occupancy level in an inter-city bus would be less than 60 per cent. The ones that are affected the most are the overnight coaches. Route permit buses and others continue. As soon as the economy goes down, the Volvo bus gets affected. Players like Neeta Travels struggled during the downturn.

Q. Does it make it tough for operators of Volvo buses to have a good ROI?

A. Mass market continues to be attractive. ROI is available in the Rs.40 lakh range.

Q. Does it make it lucrative for you where Volvo buses are unable to cut in?

A. Our sleeper coach we are targeting at the Rs.40-45 lakh range.

Q. Aren’t the sleeper coaches an ambiguous territory?

A. The sleeper coach (code) draft has come in. It should be out in the next two months.

Q. Is the socialist agenda relating to buses somewhere affecting their ability to bloom?

A. With the advent of ‘AMRUT’ scheme, the ‘JNNURM’ scheme has gone away. They have made it clear that the allocation for buses has to funded from smart city budgets. Even ‘AMRUT’ does not seem to be moving. Luckily, the STU numbers are going up. The ‘AMRUT’ scheme may not lead to the bus numbers going up, the STU numbers are going up. The needs of STUs are becoming higher. In the last one year, over 14000 STU tenders have been floated. Another tender of 3000 buses is on its way.

Q. What about the city bus undertakings?

A. City bus corporations are in a bad shape except for those like BMTC, which is doing well and getting money from other revenue sources like their malls. They have been efficient and smart. They have been smarter in using their money. 

Q. Do you have to educate buyers towards the buses they should buy?

A. From some of the STUs we end up learning from. They know what they want, the performance they want. It is interesting to do business with them. One does not mind giving them two extra features free of cost. Consider GSTC, and they are quite sharp. APSRTC is quite okay. There are others who do not know what they want. Nothing has moved in some states. In one state, nothing has moved for the last two and a half years because there’s no confidence that money will be recovered from the customers. We have a (firm) order for 1500 buses under JNNURM, which is still pending from that state. They have now called us for 528 numbers. For the last two years no private contractor has agreed to come and pick-up the contract. We met some contractors, and their problem is to get the customer to pay. There’s nothing that can be done if the customer does not want to pay. 

Q. Are you not looking at the inter-city rear engine bus market?

A. Indian CV manufacturers have been trying to make headway into the high-end rear engine coach market. They have not been successful however. They have made two to three manoeuvres, and will eventually succeed. They have the strength. Volvo is also aware that someday someone will get it right. They are also trying to come out with another range. 

Q. In the inter-city arena, how optimistic are you about sleeper coaches?

A. We are highly optimistic about sleeper coaches. Sleeper coaches are selling in huge numbers. I found it hard to imagine that Volvo gave a bodyshell and told the customer to fit it with sleeper coach hardware. Pressure is very high owing to the huge demand for sleeper coaches. We are selling more sleeper coaches than the conventional ones. Sleeper coaches are being registered. The only two states that have been stringent are Punjab and Delhi. The OEMs have had to change to meet the Bus Code. The private buses continue. 

Q. How far has the Bus Code penetrated?

A. Bus Code was to be implemented in April last year. They have implemented the dimensions in April (2016). A regulation has been issued a few days back that the Bus Code will be implemented in total from October 01. This shows that the government is clear. We are already helping coach builders. We have accredited them. We give him the design; there’s no Bus Code connection for him. We certify and guarantee that what he makes is as per the specifications. We are accountable.

Q. Are you driving in a new converter (body builder) culture?

A. Some converters have a strong engineering ability. Sometimes their engineering abilities are better than that of an OEM. Some of them are brilliant. Alma Motors, for example, is at the upper end. It is a converter who can convert; has an amount of engineering abilities. We worked with them for a long time. We have done Sri Lanka buses with them. Also, with JCBL.

Q.How many buses do you do?

A. In the peak season we do about 1300 buses a month. We make some 700 of them in our plant and the rest are made by the body builders.

Q. How do you look at the upcoming regulatory change; its effect on the ecosystem in terms of engineering, operation, ownership, etc.?

A. I think that we are grappling with electronics, and internally as well. With electronics reliability goes up, provided the system is designed well and managed well. Regarding the demand for higher uptime, we are already projecting 50000 km as the first target. Eventually it will have to move to 100,000 km.

Is there an amount of Volvo technology trickling into Eicher buses?

Yes, it is. Currently it is limited to engines. Whatever support we need, may it be manufacturing or any other specific requirement, we can avail from them. We discuss issues with them. They provide us with inputs. We closely coordinate with the Volvo bus business. We do their aftermarket work.

Q. How does Eicher maintain its own identity? Especially in the presence of Volvo brand?

A. We have a clear demarcation. We (Eicher) will sell below Rs. 5.5 million, and Volvo Buses will sell above Rs. 5.5 million. There’s a clear understanding that we will not exceed this value and they will not climb below this value. Our benchmark is Rs. 4.5 million, and that of Volvo is Rs. 6 million. Brands like UD are part of Volvo. 

Q. Will UD cannibalise Eicher high end products?

A. It is clearly segregated and demarcated. The presence of UD will only aid us to grow. 

Q. Are you planning any new product at the lower end of the spectrum?

A. You may see a five-tonne product. Talking about the top-end and the low-end, we have the pipeline full. Focus first and foremost will be on heavy-duty buses – sleeper coaches. AMRUT buses and route permit products. The route permit bus products will take our market share to 25 per cent by 2020. Our focus will be on front-engine bus. We are going to bring NVH on front-engine buses.

Q. Are you not looking at a rear-engine bus?

A. Volvo already has a rear-engine bus. We would like them to leverage that technology. Also, when we look at it from the STU perspective, they are very happy with a front-engine bus. There is a drop in fuel efficiency and the maintenance costs may be higher. Rear-engine placement calls for a bigger water pump and radiators, which have an effect on the performance. Fuel efficiency comes down, and an Indian bus operator is well aware of it. The drop is approximately one to 1.5 km per litre. STUs are aware of this, and they don’t find merit in buying a rear-engine bus unless its an inter-city coach that gets them a huge amount of load. Where private operators carry loads, the STUs don’t do it. They don’t gain by that. 

Q. Does ferrying of an amount of cargo make a good supplementary income source for operators?

A. To have 10 cu. m. of storage box on a front-engine bus makes for a tricky design manoeuvre. Our endeavour is to come up with a front-engine bus that offers almost the same amount of cargo space as a rear-engine bus. Storage space in an Indian bus matters. A lot of the operator profitability comes from cargo. 

Q. Why do Indian operators seem to take an amount of time to look up to premium offerings?

A. Indian operators are smart. They know their ROI very well. The trick lies in selecting the right route and the right bus. If either of it goes wrong then it could spell trouble for an operator. Unfortunately, there have been instances were the operators have selected a bus and then started looking for a route. Good operators are very clear about selecting a route; if its a human populated route or a cargo route. They are clear about where the money is going to come from. If it is a human populated route, the turnaround has to be high. It is not possible to earn the kind of money a cargo route can deliver.

Q. How do you look at the permit system in buses, and its use by the operators?

A. We recently had a Volvo team visit us. We asked them if the 13.8 m long multi-axle bus was more profitable than a 12 m long bus. They said that there are some routes where the 13.8 m long bus will make profit, and there are some routes where the 12 m long bus will make profit. The problem is when an operator were to buy a 13.8 m bus for a route that is suitable for a 12 m bus. As we got into the heavy-duty bus segment we found out all the merits and demerits after speaking and listening to so many people, we now know where to peg the figure. Figure comes from ROI, and Rs. 4.5 m is the deadline. The period is three to four years. The maximum is four and a half years. An operator will be very keen to get the most fuel efficiency. Everything must be measured, and everyday. 

Q. Where do technologies like AMT matter?

A. I look at AMT as the future of buses. An AMT will give better fuel efficiency than a manual transmission. An automatic transmission in comparison is very costly, two and a half times more almost. It also has its own loses. The fuel efficiency of an AMT will be better than a manual transmission any day. We are developing AMTs. You could hope to see them by 2018. An advantage of AMT is that the life of transmission almost doubles. There’s no misuse. We are working with Wabco to develop AMT technology. We are also getting inputs from Volvo. Volvo has I-Shift Amt technology. 

Q. How much more would an AMT cost over a manual transmission?

A. If a manual transmission costs Rs.50,000 for example, an AMT would cost around two-lakh rupees. An auto transmission would cost five times more than a manual transmission. The trick is in getting the costs down. The lower we can bring it, the more attractive we can make it. 

Q. How are your relations with the suppliers helping you?

A. We have very good relations with our suppliers. We depend on them. Almost 90 per cent of the suppliers are one off. You may be surprised, but the supplier industry for buses does not exist. We have had to create a supplier base from scratch. Today we have about 110 suppliers. Even in a front-engine bus, the similarity of components and sharing has been changing. We have a completely different range of chassis. These come with parabolic suspension; with pneumatic suspension, which is not there in the trucks at all. The chassis is absolutely different from that of a truck. The brakes are different. Operator preferences indicate that they don’t like brake noise. Because of the noise that comes with asbestos free linings, we have had to move over to an imported lining material. 

Trendline

We are highly optimistic about sleeper coaches. Sleeper coaches are selling in huge numbers.

Validation and Certification

dsc02416-e

Q & A

Dinesh Tyagi,

Dinesh Tyagi, Director, International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT)

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. What role is ICAT playing in shaping up the Indian automotive industry?

A. ICAT was setup under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure project (NATRiP). It is one of the most significant initiatives in the automotive sector under the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. The NATRiP project was setup to build several R&D and infrastructure projects in the country at several locations representing unique collaborative efforts by the Government of India, the various state governments and the automotive industry in India. It was in the northern part of the country, that the ICAT was envisaged. ICAT was set up in 2004 as ARAIRCN. In 2006, NATRiP acquired ARAICN and renamed it as ICAT. At ICAT we provide automotive testing, certification and product development services. We understand the requirements of our clients and work towards serving their needs. This includes both, existing as well as new customers. Customers at times ask for unique requirements. This makes it necessary for us to upgrade our facilities and increase our capabilities. Some of the requirements may entail buying more gadgets, sensors and tools. Basic infrastructure is not a problem, but capabilities need to be added. When needed, advice is taken from international experts.

Q. Are your services aimed at component manufacturers primarily, or at OEMs?

A. We cater to all types of requirements. We cater not only to the automotive sector but also to non-automotive sectors like the white goods industry. To be able to cater to non-automotive sectors we are adding more infrastructure. We are also looking at serving the needs of the locomotive industry. What we have here (at Manesar) is a full fledged powertrain facility. At the vehicle level, we have chassis dynamometer with emission testing capability, engine dynamometer lab with emission testing capability and various types of testing equipment that can be used to count the particulate number, FTIR, and more. The requirements for these often change in-line with the changes in regulations. The upcoming BS VI emission regulations for example.

Q. What infrastructure have you invested in to meet the future needs?

A. We have acquired equipment like Portable Emission Measurement System (PEMS) to cater to the needs of upcoming emission regulations. We have developed a fatigue lab, where we have four posters for both passenger cars and heavy-duty vehicles. We also own various universal test benches to test the vehicle dynamics and its structural durability. We also have a climatic test cell, which can control the temperature from -30 degrees up to +55 degrees. We have two sites at Manesar, which collectively measure 55 acres. At Site 2, we have Electro Magnetic Capability (EMC) lab and a crash lab. Crash regulations are primarily for passenger vehicles under M1 category of regulatory tests, but we can also crash test light commercial vehicles for speeds up to 85 kmph. For passenger vehicles, we undertake front crash, frontal offset, side impact, rear impact, Euro NCAP and Indian NCAP tests. We have recently inaugurated new facilities at Site 1. These include a powertrain lab, a fatigue lab, CAD facility, and a infotronics lab.

Q. What are CoEs, and how many of them do you have?

A. We currently have three Centres of Excellence (CoE). These are for component development, powertrain, and NVH. Fourth CoE for tyre development is in the pipeline. It is being set up at Site 2 along with the NVH CoE. At the powertrain development CoE, we are currently focusing on developing engines and products that will meet future emission standards like BS VI. In India, BS IV emission norms will be rolled out across the country soon. We are catering to clients that are looking at such emission standards and products. Some of the emission equipment suppliers may also utilise our facility for their projects, and in case they do not have enough capacity. NVH CoE is a developmental lab for noise, vibration, and harshness of the vehicle. It does not have as much to do with certification. In this lab, we are building two semi-anechoic chambers passenger vehicles and heavy-duty vehicles. There will also be a chassis dynamometer inside the chamber. For passenger vehicles we have indoor pass by noise simulation. Simulating field conditions, the vehicle is driven on a chassis dynamometer, and an array of microphones that simulate the passing by of a vehicle. The vehicle is stationary and the microphones move while recording the noise. For tyre development CoE, we are developing new test rigs with multiple stations. We have a photometry test lab to support lighitng manufacturers for developing next generation products. We expect the Indian market to graduate to LEDs 100 per cent by 2020.

Q. Are you approached by international players?

A. There is a big movement taking place. There are many MNCs, which have had a presence only in the virtual engineering field, working with CAD, and are now planning to expand their base in India. They are approaching us. They are tying up with us so that they can save on investing in a similar infrastructure. They are seeing an opportunity to do real work by collaborating with us. We have been closely working with manufacturers like Daimler and Renault to tweak their existing range of products for the Indian market. We are also working with various companies based out of China, Gulf and the UK. We are offering them engineering services.

Q. What role does ICAT play in commercial vehicle testing?

A. We do CMVR certification for commercial vehicles. Some of them come to us for emission development. Work on BS VI emission norms has already begun. Not just the OEMs, tier suppliers are also approaching us for product development. Even Tier 2 and 3 players are showing interest. Not in a big way at the moment, we are rendering services for export homologation as well. We have an online system called IOCS where a customer registers a case, lays down the documents as the prescribed format, submits test properties and seeks a report from us followed by certificates. Coordination happens mainly for certification work. It happens through various forums under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH).

Q. Product recalls are increasing? What do you think is causing it?

A. The market is becoming sensitive to defect liability. The quality has not gone down. It is improving. It is OEMs, that are becoming careful about defect liability. They therefore voluntarily recall. This used to happen earlier as well. The regime in India is however not so strong. Globally, it is a good practice.

Q. Can NGT ban on diesel vehicles help in controlling pollution levels?

A. The MoRTH is working on various options like providing concessions while buying new vehicles and relaxing the duty for scrapping old vehicles. With moves like the NGT ban on diesel vehicles, we can expect some effect in the level of pollution. If Delhi does it, it will be followed by other states. The replacement of fleet will happen at a brisk pace. There is an impact on sales due to the ban on diesel passenger vehicles of more than 2000cc. It will push engineers to build efficient engines. The final objective is to curb pollution. If it will reduce is doubtful. It is not correct to think that a bigger engine will pollute more. Much depends on technology and sophistication. Controlling pollution in petrol is not a big challenge. Controlling it in diesel is a tedious task.

Q. Can pollution be curbed by engine downsizing and light weighting?

A. Downsizing of engine is increasingly talked about in the industry. (Injection) pressure is going up and displacement volume is going down. This collectively determines power, and power is increasing. We can be of secondary help if anyone needs to test light weighting of products. The need is to bother about the endurance ability as well as the life of a product that would run for thousands of kilometers. If manufacturers need help, we are ready. We are talking to oil refineries to get bulk low Sulphur diesel to support our customers for testing vehicles, and to carry out the validation process. The quest for BS VI by 2020, I feel, is an aggressive timeline. Nowhere in the world has such progression happened in such a short time span. For foreign multinationals, it may not amount to a big challenge, for Indian companies it is.

Q. For commercial vehicles, are you setting up pollution control facilities?

A. We are setting up four pilot centres for inspection and certification for commercial vehicles. We have already completed two of them in Rohtak and Delhi., Work in under progress for such centres at Lucknow. The Lucknow centre will be ready next year. Also, the centre at Himachal Pradesh. Many states are in dialogue with us. We will help them to set up such centres.

Q. What has been the investment in ICAT till date?

A. Close to about Rs.1000 crore has been invested in ICAT under the NATRiP project. In addition, close to Rs.150 crore has been ploughed back for the creation of new infrastructure. We grew 47 per cent last year. A similar growth rate is expected in this fiscal too.

We grew 47 per cent last year. A similar growth rate is expected in this fiscal too.

Asia-Pacific bound

img_5096-edited-new

Q & A

Rudi Von Meister,

President, Region of Asia Pacific, ZF Friedrichshafen AG

Interview & photo by: Ashish Bhatia

Q. As a leading global automotive parts maker, has ZF Friedrichshafen AG managed to attain an equally strong foothold in markets beyond Europe? Especially markets like Asia-Pacific?

A. ZF has traditionally relied on our core customers in Europe and in North America for our business. We have grown successfully and profitably into a global player by accompanying those customers overseas. But at this point and time the auto industry continues to explore and find growth in new markets. Local players in those markets have ambition to become global players. For instance the Japanese accomplished it in 60’s-70’s and Koreans in 80’s-90’s. We are now in a position as the world’s third largest automotive parts maker following the acquisition of TRW last year to participate more aggressively and more comprehensively in global markets as a localised player.

Q. How would you gauge the growth potential in the Indian market compared to rest of Asia-pacific?

A. We follow the Chinese market more specifically and we are now in India. In some cases we have been in India for decades in the steering business. Our TRW colleagues have been in India equally long since the 80’s in braking and other systems. What we have now is the opportunity to use our combined knowledge, experience, presence and relationships to expand our ability to serve the Indian automobile industry on the truck side.

Q. Do you see the decision to enter the CV space in India paying-off? You entered the market when the chips were down.

A. To make the decision, you identify demand for your products before you come into a market. We picked the time as the Indian automotive market was experiencing some corrections. We are past that now. We have a base for commercial vehicle product, specifically transmissions and chassis components. We hope to build upon that given the relationships we’ve established, ties we have with key manufacturers and in-turn their clients and their users, and our growing brand reputation. We also have the opportunity now of leveraging the complementary portfolio that TRW brings by reaching out to a broader range of customers. Commercial Vehicle is one key area of focus. We established those operations several years ago as you mentioned, but we are now pushing hard in our new business plant in Pune to create new segments and grow the existing ones.

Q. Is India ready for the ‘See-Think-Act’ themed product line-up?

A. See-Think-Act is process or the formula we are implementing in stages towards achieving competencies in autonomous driving. Autonomous driving we’ve had the see aspect towards the ability to sense proximity and avoid accidents or avoid vehicle contact as a result of that. Think then starts allowing the data from various sensors to be analysed in order to pro-actively engage the vehicle’s electronic brains towards accident avoidance. In the longer term the act allows the computer brain to engage both external and internal data in order to make some corrective actions take place in the event of the driver not being able to do so. Which markets are ready for this, some are closer than others in terms of connectivity and the ability to have an infrastructure in place that supports this type of comprehensive data access. In India that may not quite be the case yet but there is definitely a need given the usage on the roads and the risk of accidents when you incorporate so many different modes of transportation on one narrow strip of tarmac. Some of the most brilliant engineers on earth are in India working on infrastructural improvements and I imagine we will see a lot of progress there.

Q. How do you see the acquisition of TRW Automotive impact the Asia-Pacific market especially India?

A. In the Indian market we have our relationships through the ZF channel some of which have been endured for decades. On the TRW side their history goes back as far as the 60’s. When it comes to the relationship with Rane Group and several decades with the TVS Group. And through their existing joint ventures in India, they played a major role in the evolution and expansion of the Indian automotive industry. In the process now, introducing electric parking brakes which is cutting edge product in our portfolio. So I expect what we are going to see in the future is much greater integration between what the ZF portfolio offers on the transmission, power-line or drive-line side, suspension, chassis components and electronic sensors and TRW’s complementary portfolio of steering, brake systems and active and passive safety systems. So if you think about how these two come together whether you are talking about conventional automotive technologies or next generation e-mobility, it puts us in a very strong position to serve our customers even better because of the ability to integrate of all these different systems on common chassis or platforms.

Q. What do you think will pave the way for ZF and TRW automotive’s integration to succeed in India?

A. One area that we would be focusing on is bringing our Research and Development (R&D) capability in the country. India has been a great find and success for many companies, both industrial and otherwise. So over the course of last couple of decades, we now have come to realise the place within our global R&D contium for a R&D base in India. We are in the process of building our strategy to accomplish that within the next few years.

Q. How has the integration of TRW Automotive added to ZF’s existing capabilities?

A. Its because they have their customers, their reputation, their relationships. We have ours. There is excitement in both camps as to where we as one company will go forward. For example in China, they have test tracks which are highly sought after. We have to go and find them, and lease them when we need them. We have a couple that are in-house. By the same token we at ZF have computer simulation and material science with capabilities of interest to them, and so if we start matching up what each other has in terms of strengths, presence, facilities as well as key-relationships with the customers in the major Asian markets. That quantifies much more than one plus one that equals 3.14. Its big opportunity but in terms of driving investment, we understand that we have to make some important changes in our organisational culture to draw more activity, more productivity, more development, more responsiveness and more local activity in to the key markets of Asia in order to serve them more effectively.

Q. Its over a year since the two culturally different organisations were fused together in May 2015. Are you satisfied with the outcomes and pace of progress so far?

A. The activity has been very persistant and its been very effective but one of our key objectives is not to disrupt or distract from the key task of serving the customer when it comes to delivering that promise. You are not going to see any external changes until the next year or two. What’s happening though internally is we have both sides represented here, we have very significant leadership exchanges and we are collaborating on joint customer projects. We will be integrating our purchasing organisation quickly, we are taking steps in other functional areas as well and in the course of the next couple of years this company is going to look quite different. However it is really impossible also to deliver the promise and to keep our most important resource, our people, focused, enthused and confident of the company going in the right direction. That’s why we are treading cautiously now.

Q. Which are the commercially viable products to have come out from ZF TRW integration?

A. You saw a lot of it at the ‘Global Press Event’ in Aanchen. Our advanced urban vehicle which we showcased last year is an integration of both TRW and ZF technologies. Our future automated driving concepts and capability has to be an outcome of with the marriage of the technology and capability of both sides in order to be successful.

Q. With innovation an underlying theme at ZF, do you see the prototypes turning commercially viable over a short to medium or medium to long term horizon?

A. I love seeing innovation of our truck colleagues because they move very fast, they have to be lauded in the manner in which they sense and respond to opportunities especially in some of our developing markets. If it weren’t commercially viable in the near term we probably wouldn’t do it. We don’t do a long pass and a long kick. We have to be very conscious of how we spend our money. We do advanced research and development but we are always looking at the near to medium term payback.

The auto industry continues to explore and find growth in new markets. Local players in those markets are aspiring to go global.

Going Electric

Q & A

Veejay Nakra,

Senior Vice President, Sales & Customer Care, Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra

Interview by: Bhargav TS

38735 = 222 copy

Q. What is your industry outlook?

A. The sentiments are positive and things are moving in the right direction. We have a full year for the new products that we have launched. The first quarter growth is mainly due to that. The monsoon is looking good, and the sentiments, in the urban as well as rural areas are good. The realisation of this will however start kicking in towards the third quarter. The second half of this year will be stronger therefore. Currently, the M&HCV segments are growing, and we hope the LCV segment will also experience a strong growth. If the infrastructure expands, M&HCV growth will be followed by LCV growth. We will see the benefit of both, infrastructure and a good monsoon. The two will help in reviving the LCV segment in the coming months.

Q. At Mahindra, the emphasis on electric vehicles seems to be growing. What do you hope to achieve?

A. We are looking at making multiple drivetrain fuel options available to customers. It is therefore not just about diesel and petrol. We are looking at CNG fuel for certain products, and at electric vehicles for certain applications. We were the first in India to acquire a company that provides electric (mobility) solutions. We have the e20 and a few other products from this business arm. We are now looking at creating electric solutions in many platforms. The Mahindra Supro is the first product in the commercial vehicle category. We are working on many other existing products and platforms to provide electric solutions.

Q. How hopeful are you of electric or CNG infrastructure to come up sooner than later?

A. The manufacturers as well as SIAM are working on it. They are also talking to the government. There is very good realisation in the country, and the government is actively working towards creating the right environment. And, it is not just about CNG or LPG, but also about electric vehicle technology. Electric vehicle technology will boom with the progress in battery technology that would allow for longer drives and quicker charging. Manufacturers in many countries are working on such technologies. Clean technologies are going to be the future of our industry. Any new policy or framework takes time. The good part is the framework the government has come up with that gives use a road map till 2020. It is a positive sign.

Q. Considering the requirements of CVs, how do you think electric technology can play a role?

A. If you look at the current limitations of technology, it may not be possible. However, the speed at which technology is developing in electric vehicles, we can see it coming in Small Commercial Vehicles (SCV). For it to come in Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HCVs) will take longer. For HCVs, the torque level has to be higher. Also, it would depend on the load HCVs carry and the terrain they travel over.

Q. Apart from an electric version of Supro, which other CVs could we look at in the electric form?

A. We are currently looking at passenger segment. We therefore launched the Supro electric passenger version. Over a period of time we will bring electric versions of other vehicles too. In India, customers usually overload their vehicle. The challenge is not about powering the vehicle for rated load capacity, but about factoring in the amount of overloading, or its nature. That is our main challenge. We will therefore initially think of electric vehicles for carrying people only. Such vehicles are seldom overloaded.

Q. How challenging it is to develop an electric goods carrier?

A. There are a few things that have to be kept in mind. The need for charging stations for example. The owner of a vehicle for captive use knows when and how long the vehicle will be running. He can accordingly charge the vehicle. For market load application, the driver will not know when he will get his trip, or for how long he has to drive. The need for charging stations en-route is therefore essential. Another big challenge is the higher initial costs. The running cost or the operating cost of an electric vehicle is low, but the initial costs are high. Looking at the profile of buyers in the CV segment, it is definitely a challenge about convincing them to buy a product. In fact, the main challenge is to make the proposition viable for a person to buy the product.

Q. What new are you bringing to the market in CVs?

A. We are strong in LCVs where we operate in a niche segment. Our numbers speak, and we are growing much faster than our competitors in the segment are. As far as the bus segment is concerned, it is about cowl-chassis. The bus platform is adapted to the cowl-chassis. Our team is actively working on it.

Volvo CE introduces P5320B ABG paver

Operator seating position provides both comfort and very good visibility of the hopper and delivery trucks plus material in the auger area and screed. Operator is able to select side and seat position for best visibility of material while able to safely observe the mat off the screed and the screed operators. Safety handrails and  a well padded seat are standard on the paver. Controls are ergonomically positioned control, central control panel, cross sliding it both sides of the paver deluxe seat with tilt

Left-Front view

Designed and made in India for the Indian road building industry, the paver promises exceptional paving quality, productivity, fuel efficiency, and ease of operation.

Story by:

Team CV

Volvo CE has introduced the P5320B BG paver. Designed and made in India for the Indian road building industry, the paver promises exceptional paving quality, productivity, fuel efficiency and ease of operation. Powering the P5320B ABG is an environmentally-friendly engine that is claimed to produce a best-in-class 118 hp power. Quiet and fuel efficient, the paver incorporates a load sensing hydraulic system powered by a variable displacement axial piston pump. The hydraulic system powered by a variable displacement axial piston pump enhances performance efficiency of the machine. The hydraulics of the P5320B ABG are perfectly matched to all components – from hopper to screed, and ensure less maintenance. Claimed to have a longer lifespan and higher traction performance, the automatic hydraulic track tensioner of the paver maintains accurate track tension for smooth operation, while simultaneously reducing wear and minimising downtime. The material handling system of the paver is designed to incorporate hard and extra thick, wear-resistant components, resisting wear and tear from abrasive lay down material. This, together with the multi-level protection design incorporated into every bearing of the material handling system, ensure minimum repair costs over the long term.

Designed in India, made in India

With 20 per cent of India’s USD one-trillion investment trove (as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan) earmarked for infrastructure development, activity levels in road construction are claimed to have picked up. Some 6,300 km of roads are said to have been constructed last year. This would equate to around 18 km of roads laid out every day. The launch of P5320B ABG comes at a time when the government is planning to increase the amount of road building activity to 30 km per day. To develop the paver, Volvo CE put to use its 50-year experience in building road construction machinery. Expected to have an even greater appeal for customers in India, the P5320B ABG paver was designed at the company’s Bangalore facility. It is being manufactured at the Bangalore facility as well, and in response to the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. Ideal for medium and large-scale paving projects where widths range from 2.5 m to 7 m, the P5320B ABG paver, according to Martin Weissburg, president of Volvo CE, will greatly appeal to customers in India, having been designed and built in India at the company’s Bangalore facility. “It is ideal for medium and large-scale paving projects where widths range from 2.5 m to 7 m,” mentioned Weissburg.

Productive and Safe Functionality

The P5320B ABG’s ability to pave widths up to 7 m is courtesy the Volvo Omni V screed. The up to 7 m paving width is achieved through a simple installation of optional extensions which attach to the unit’s standard 3 m track plates. The heavy-duty screed features powerful tamping bars and vibration systems that deliver a high pre-compaction density. An adjustable mechanical crown enables the screed plate to flex at plus or minus three-3 degrees. The screed’s electronically ignited gas heating system, designed with flame failure protection, quickly and efficiently heats the screed plate, while an LPG blower burner system provides uniform heat for a high quality consistent mat finish.

Operators would benefit from the safe and comfortable dual seating position in the paver’s cab, with ergonomically-positioned controls and sliding control panel which enables excellent visibility to the hopper, material deliver truck, auger area, material flow, screed and final mat. There is an ergonomically-designed control panel that includes a color TFT display that relays information on the paving cycle, as well as details on diagnostics and service data. An all-weather sunshade attached to the cab also reduces fatigue for increased safety and productivity, without sacrificing operator visibility. Handrails and all-weather grip walk areas permit further safe movement around all machine platforms for extra operational safety.

To improve material transfer and flow, the P5320B ABG’s auger allows operators to adjust its height. Its reversal feature improves material control and reduces hand labour, contributing to additional productivity. For industry-wide compatibility, the electrical system fitted on the P5320B ABG is designed to accommodate standard global levelling systems.

Delivering business value

Road construction contractors looking to minimise recurring variable costs throughout the life cycle of the paver are likely to find reassurance in Volvo CE’s end-to-end service network. With an extensive infrastructure of technicians, workshops and dealers spread across India, paver operators would have a Volvo CE expert in case they would like him to respond quickly in case of an operational emergency.