Subros CV Thermal solutions

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In an exclusive interaction with Shraddha Suri Marwah, Managing Director, Subros, and her team, by H. S. Billimoria, CEO, Next Gen Publishing, and Ashish Bhatia, Sr. Correspondent, CV magazine, it was revealed that they have developed thermal solutions for Cvs.

Established in 1985 as a joint venture company with the Suri Group holding a 40 per cent stake, Denso Corporation and Suzuki Motor Corporation holding a 13 per cent stake each, Subros Ltd., has developed thermal solutions for commercial vehicles. These include air-conditioning compressors, condensers, evaporators, heat exchangers and various other bits that make a HVAC system in an automobile. Finding use in CVs manufactured by Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, SML Isuzu, Force Motors and Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, the thermal solutions the company is providing are eliciting good demand. With the count of professional fleets going up in India, the demand for fully-built CVs with an air-conditioning system is rising. It is, in the process, triggering a shift from economy CVs to value CVs. With the government mandating the fitting of a blower unit in CVs with a GVW of 3.5-tonnes and above, the Thermal systems market for CVs is opening up in India. With the AC bus and reefer truck market experiencing strong demand – the market for AC bus is estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,0000 units per annum, and for reefer truck is estimated to be 3,000 units, Subros is finding itself in an advantageous position.

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Announcing the decision to enter the automotive Thermal market as a risky proposition in 1985, and seemed futuristic and way ahead of its time, Shraddha Suri Marwah, Managing Director, Subros Ltd., averred that in the CV business they are keen to replicate the success they have achieved in the passenger vehicle business. Starting with an initial capacity of 50,000 units per annum in 1985 after obtaining necessary licenses and approvals, Subros entered the passenger vehicle market where 95 per cent of the vehicles sold were non-air-conditioned. Today almost every passenger vehicle that rolls out of the assembly line is fitted with an air-conditioner. In-line the transformation the Indian passenger vehicles have undergone, the company has come to have a 1.5 million units capacity. Commanding a 40 per cent market share of the passenger vehicle HVAC market in India, Subros is confident of making it big in the CV space. Leveraging the experience of building thermal systems for passenger vehicles at one end, and for locomotives (to Indian Railways, Medha Group and Bombardier Transportation) at the other. Keen to get a frontrunner advantage in the Indian CV market, Subros is confident of finding a stronghold in the CV space. Expressed Marwah, “We see the passenger vehicle trend replicating itself in the commercial vehicle space in India.” Mentioning that the mandate to fit a blower unit is creating a strong pull, she stressed that 95 per cent of CVs were not fitted with an air-conditioner in 2017.

With the processes in the CV space the same as in the passenger vehicle space, and the product too similar to that in the passenger vehicle space from a thermal engineering point of view, Subros is supplying blower units to CV makers since the third quarter of FY2017-18. The company is claimed to have secured a 70 per cent market share in this segment. Quipped Marwah that they have a distinct advantage of having an efficient infrastructure at their disposal. “We can quickly and promptly respond to the market requirement,” she said. In the long-term, the company is looking at the CV market contributing 25 per cent of the business. The rest would come from the passenger vehicle business. The current contribution of the CV business is in the region of 10 to 15 per cent. Aware of a large number of players eyeing the AC bus market, which is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 20 to 25 per cent in the next three to four years, Subros is keen to secure business from State Transport Undertakings (STUs). Most of them are expanding their AC bus fleet. Stating that the preference for AC buses is rising, Marwah mentioned, “The demand may be at a nascent stage today, we expect it to rise significantly.” Bullish about road infrastructure growth creating a demand for AC CVs, Marwah opined that they are looking at an opportunity in both, short-haul and long-haul buses.

Subros is also paying close attention to the off-highway CV segments. Rather than limit itself to trucks and buses, it is keen to carve out a large pie of the growing AC market for construction and earth moving equipment. It is the well-being and safety of such equipment operators that is driving the AC market informed Marwah. She averred, “Awareness for AC cabins is rising, and is being linked to higher return on investments.” Stating that they have a strategy in place to cater to the construction and earthmoving equipment market, Marwah expressed that the aspiration for an AC cabin in the agricultural equipment sector is driven by factors like health, comfort and work environment. “Mobile farmer segment is on our radar,” she quipped. Looking at rising mechanisation and the growing need for comfort, Subros is well aware that cooling is a key to the driver’s ability to perform his duties for a longer stretch of time. Banking on the rapid globalisation of the food industry, Subros is keen to carve out a larger share of the cold chain logistics segment too. Influenced broadly by trade patterns and costs, the company is looking at stringent government regulations and improvement in crop realisation to create a pull for reefer trucks. “We are ready to serve the needs of this segment. We are providing turnkey solutions for both, the cabin and superstructure,” averred Marwah.

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Happy about the support from Denso as a technology partner, Subros, with seven manufacturing plants in India and an engineering centre the was jointly developed by it and Denso in 2012, is working closely with its customers. Executing expansion plans in-line with the customer growth plans, the company will commission a new facility in Gujarat next year. It will add 0.5 million units capacity to the company’s existing capacity of 1.5 million units. “The decision to invest in Gujarat was taken for products that are produced at a single location, and are critical to quality,” revealed Marwah. Apart from producing the entire HVAC unit, the plant will also manufacture hoses and condensers. Akin to the infrastructure at the existing plants, the company is investing in modern machinery and precision testing equipment at Gujarat. The production lines according to Marwah will incorporate extensive in-line quality checks to ensure the best quality. Drawing attention to the pressure die casting plant at Noida, Marwah said that it is the only squeeze die casting plant in India, and produces high-quality intricate castings using squeeze and vacuum die casting. The technology at the plant is said to have been provided by Denso Corporation.

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The Manesar plant of Subros contains a state-of-the-art manufacturing and testing facility. The plant manufactures compressor clutch assembly, condenser core, condenser assembly, hoses and tubes, HVAC assembly, injection moulded parts, and ECM. The AC systems for CVs are made at the Oragadam plant of the company. The Oragadam plant also caters to transport refrigeration and the aftermarket. The Chakan plant of Subros serves Tata Motors, and boasts of the latest in production equipment, and product design and development set-up. With an aim to get the CV business to contribute 25 per cent of the revenues over the long-term, Subros is enhancing its capabilities. It is paying close attention to the needs of its customers. Supplying world-class products, the company is engaging closely with its partner Denso to innovate. Mentioned Marwah, “We are charting out a growth story through the increase in the share of business not only from new customers but also from the existing ones.” Emphasising on local content, costs and innovation, Subros is banking on technologically advanced products at the lowest possible price points.

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Shraddha Suri Marwah, Managing Director, Subros Ltd.

Q. Beginning with passenger cars and finding a firm footing in the commercial vehicle market, how do you look at the Subros journey?

A. Subros Ltd. was established in 1985 as a joint venture between the Suri Group, Denso Corporation (Japan) and Suzuki Motor Corporation (Japan). It was the result of a brave decision of the chairman of Suri Group, Ramesh Suri. Over 95 per cent of the passenger vehicles sold were without an air-conditioner. It was the foresight of the promoters of the company that led to the establishment of Subros. Today, Subros has come to have a capacity to produce 1.5 million units. It is commanding a 40 per cent share of the Indian passenger vehicle market. We are keen to replicate the same success in the commercial vehicle space. Incidentally, we see the same trend in the commercial vehicle space that was seen in the passenger vehicle space in 1985. Over 95 per cent of the commercial vehicles sold is without an air-conditioner. It is because of the government notification (that driver cabins of CVs should have a blower starting January 01, 2018) that a pull in the direction of thermal systems is emerging. Since all the processes are same when it comes to CVs from a thermal engineering point of view we were able to smoothly expand into the CV space.

Q. How are you driving Ramesh Suri’s vision?

A. The belief of Ramesh Suri in the thermal product domain is commendable. It is this vision of his that is driving us. We are following him. His mantra, ‘Perfection is a never-ending journey’, we continue to follow at all the levels of business we conduct. We continue to invest in new technology and develop new products. We have retained the confidence of our customers, and are partnering them for their programme road-map. It is his vision that has led us to expand into new areas.

Q. How do you look at the association with Denso Corporation and Suzuki Motor Corporation?

A. Our association with Denso Corporation and Suzuki Motor Corporation is about seamless communication. We share a strong bond of trust and support. Denso, as a technology partner, has been a pillar of strength. It has and continues to help us to address the needs of our clients like Maruti Suzuki. In 2012, we formed a joint venture, Denso Subros Engineering Center, to focus on application design and new technologies.

Q. How much are CVs contributing in revenue terms?

A. Passenger vehicles are currently contributing 85 to 90 per cent of the revenue. The remaining is contributed by CVs. We are focusing on CVs in a big way as we feel that this business will grow at a faster pace. We have a clear plan to have the CV business contribute 75 per cent revenue in the future and the remaining 25 per cent from passenger vehicles. We see demand emerging out of state transport organisations as they expand their AC bus fleet. The government notification for the fitting of a blower is also creating a pull. Infrastructure improvement, we are confident, will increase the demand for air-conditioned CVs. We see demand coming from government’s focus on air-conditioning locomotive driver cabins and local rail rakes too.

Q. What rate of growth in CVs are you looking at?

A.Though at a nascent stage, we see the CV thermal market growing at a fast pace in the near future.

Q. Isn’t the cyclical nature of CV market in India a challenge?

A. The cyclic nature of CV market in India is not different from the global markets. Market demand for better and faster transportation is facilitating growth. Government support and regulations have been a positive growth driver as well. We don’t see a challenge, therefore.

Q. How do you look at bus market growth?

A. Public transport will play a key role in decongesting the cities. Improving living standards and growing aspirations are driving the demand for AC buses. The market in per centage terms may not be significant today, in the near future we are confident of it growing to 30 per cent of the total market size. Rise in road infrastructure will lead to AC bus demand. We see a strong opportunity in that space.

Q. How big is the market for tractors, construction and earthmoving equipment?

A. Concerns about health and safety are creating demand for air-conditioned operator cabins in tractors, construction and earthmoving equipment. Companies focusing on employee health are noticing that AC cabins are improving driver efficiency. Demand for AC is thus growing. It is growing especially in tractors and backhoe loaders. Enhanced productivity due to AC cabins is leading to a better return on investment.

Q. How is business faring in case of transport refrigeration solutions?

A. Land routes account for the largest market share in global transport refrigeration units market. Climate controlled transportation is influenced by trade patterns and transportation costs. Driving growth in this market is globalisation of food trade. Growth in Asia-Pacific is high. In India it is led by the development of food retailing infrastructure, changing food consumption patterns (growing preference for frozen and chilled food), growing population, rapid urbanisation, and stringent government regulations. Providing large scope for expansion, improvement in crop realisation will lead to a rise in demand for cold chain logistics. We are ready. We are in fact providing turnkey solutions for both cabin and AC fitment to OEMs, and to other markets.

Q. Do you expect the truck segment to be a growth driver?

A. As of now, a ventilation system is mandatory. AC is optional. We, as a pioneer in the thermal field, have secured a 70 per cent market share. Our product lines are ready, and we have begun supply in the last quarter. This market is large and will be a key driver in the long run.

Q. How is GST influencing the CV side of your business?

A. There was not much change in the billing pattern. Prices reduced. The benefits we passed to the customers after GST was implemented has to lead to a positive impact.

Q. What is your manufacturing infrastructure like?

A. We have seven manufacturing units across India. We will commission a new plant in Gujarat in 2019. The location of our plants is dictated by the proximity to the OEM. We have also set up our own tool engineering centre that enables us to localize tools, moulds and dies. The centre not only meets the Subros requirements, it also acts as a commercial Tool Room.

Q. What is the total capacity?

A.With the commissioning of Gujarat plant, our capacity will go up by 0.5 million units from the current 1.5 million units. The capacity could be scaled up to one-million units from 0.5 million. The Gujarat facility will make products which are currently produced at a single location and are critical to quality.

Q. Which OEMS do you cater to?

A. Other than Maruti Suzuki we cater to Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Renault Nissan, SML Isuzu, Force Motors, and Daimler India Commercial Vehicles. We also cater to Indian Railways, Medha and Bombardier.

Q. How are you helping your clients meet the regulatory requirements?

A. We are committed to environment protection. We offer eco- friendly products. Our priority is to provide high-efficiency air-conditioning systems that emit less and help achieve higher fuel economy. Our products ensure maintenance of discharge air temperatures at idle and during stops in mild hybrid vehicles especially. We offer ECMs that meet CO2 and NOx emissions regulations.

Q. What are the focus areas in R&D?

The Subros Technical Centre (STC) at Noida develops new products. It develops new products for model launches with assistance from Denso. Denso Subros Thermal Engineering Services takes care of the application and allied services. Our focus is on enhancing technologies to meet the future requirements of customers. Our emphasis is on local manufacture with global specifications. The roadmap for future technologies the Indian market will demand is in place. We are working closely with our partners to enhance our technological prowess, and to fully support customer vehicle programmes. Our state-of-the-art testing facilities are enabling us to evaluate all aspects of vehicle thermal system management. It is helping us to be a reliable partner for component and system validation.

Q. Is the forging division captive to Subros or serves customers outside?

A. The Forging division of Subros is equipped with pressure die casting and squeeze die casting technology. These technologies are required for compressor shells and castings. Majority of the output of the forging division is captive. There are other products, which the division manufactures for OEMs.

Q. How do you look at the competition?

A. To be a market leader is a tough task. We have always believed that competition is good for health. It has led us to challenge ourselves; to improve on all fronts.

Q. With an estimated market cap of Rs.26.64 billion, what are the opportunities and challenges that you foresee?

A. We are anticipating continued growth in the auto sector due to stable global economic factors, emphasis on the local manufacture, and infrastructure growth. We are catering to the needs of existing and new automakers in India. The commissioning of Gujarat plant will help us in doing so. Due to increase in the share of business from existing customers, and because of expanding into new business domains like bus and rail air-conditioning, truck refrigeration, and radiators, we are anticipating strong growth. We see growth in the promotion of eco-friendly automobiles in India. We have made extensive localisation plans for key components with an objective to provide products that employ the latest technology at low cost. This, we are confident, will help us to sustain growth, profitably, and minimise the impact of fluctuation in economic indicators.

Riding the AC bus

Demand for air-conditioned buses is on the rise.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

Privatisation of education has given rise to a set of challenges that extend all the way down to securing admission at the kindergarten level. In Delhi, getting admission is a monumental task says Jasmeet Marwah, a businessman from a plush South Delhi colony. For the last one year, he has been desperately looking out to get his tiny tot an admission in a good school. He is also particularly concerned about logistics and the environment. His home is Air-Conditioned (AC), and he is looking for a school that has AC classrooms. He is also looking for a AC school buses that his tiny tot can ride. Reflective of the change that is taking place when it comes to buses, school, the market for bus AC manufacturers is looking good. With the demand for AC buses gaining prominence, especially as temperatures rise, bus AC manufacturers are expanding their operations and reach. The market for AC buses is expected to grow at a rate of 15 per cent, and in fair proportion to the growth of the bus market in India. Finding favour with corporates, educational institutes, and others, it is not just the private operators who are warming up to the prospect of AC buses, government operators like STUs and city bus undertakings are also warming up to the prospect of AC buses. In fact, most STUs and city bus undertakings already have AC buses as their flagship offerings. In an organisation like the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), AC buses may account for a meagre one-per cent of its current fleet of 18,150 buses, they make for a better earning potential however. It is not for no reason that MSRTC is keen to lease 500 air-conditioned buses from private operators under the ‘Shivshahi’ scheme.

Gearing up for growth

The number of AC buses in India may be estimated to be 10 per cent of the total bus market, there number is rapidly growing. Two years ago, the AC bus market was estimated to be in the region of 5000 units. Today, it is estimated to be over 10,000 units per annum. Looking at the rising demand, it is natural for bus AC manufacturers to gear up for growth. Claiming to be the market leader in India for luxury bus ACs, Eberspaecher Suetrak, the Indian arm of USD 4.4 billion German major Eberspaecher, is known to supply over 2500 units of its AC 353 model to large buses till date. It is aiming to make India the global manufacturing hub for mid-size bus ACs according to K P Singh, Director India, Eberspaecher Suetrak. Singh informs that the AC 505 model that was launched last year for mid-size buses has already attracted orders from Australia and the Middle East. Efficient than the AC 310 model, the AC 505, according to Singh, boasts of a local content of 70 to 85 per cent. It is engineered with MCHX condenser technology, and is lighter in weight and needs less refrigerant. It is easier to mount too. Expressing that the operations in India are stabilising, Singh says that it would be cheaper to source bus ACs from India rather than to buy them from Europe.

Post the acquisition by multinational automotive supplier Valeo, Spheros, which operates through a joint venture in India with Motherson is expanding its reach. Spheros Motherson holds close to 30 per cent market share in India, and is fully geared up to cater to the African market by riding on Ashok Leyland buses. A 100 per cent supplier to DTC AC buses, the company also caters to the needs of JBM. “We will supply 100 units of CC 350 model to Ashok Leyland for its buses that are set to debut in Ivory Coast. We are also supporting JBM for its Citylife bus venture with AE 350 model destined for African markets,” beams Cyril Xavier, Chief Operating Officer, Spheros Motherson Thermal Systems Ltd. The company recently supplied 50 units of AE 350 model for JBM buses which will be operated by Noida Metro Rail Corporation. An order of 20 units of CC 225 model was bagged by the company recently. The ACs were fitted in Tata Marcopolo midi buses bought by Shiv Nadar university in Delhi NCR. Spheros Motherson has also supplied 250 units of Revo Global 400 model ACs to Scania. Each unit of these is claimed to weigh 50 kg less than the AE 400 model AC, and offers better flow based on the virtue of the design changes that reduce refrigerant usage by 50 per cent according to Xavier.

Focusing on a full range of buses – small, medium and large, Thermo King has launched a TK-Cool series of products that offer a unique proposition to the customer. An Ingersoll Rand brand, Thermo King, catering to coaches, school buses, staff buses, tarmac and special application buses, has specially designed the CS 1100, CS 1000 and CF 500 AC models for modern buses. These models are claimed to offer superior operational efficiency and low noise temperature control. This is especially true of the CS 1000 and CS 500 ACs. These are one piece designs that are compact, and have a side air intake for higher system efficiency and better maintenance. Both the models come with an optional brushless blower and improved condenser coil, which enables higher heat transfer efficiency and lower noise. “The TK Cool Series ACs are tested and certified by ARAI for homologation requirement in India, which make them compliant with Indian operating condition standards,” states Sudarshan Ananth, Territory Vice President and Business Leader – Trane & Thermo King, Emerging Markets and India Territories. He adds, “When designing a product as per the customer needs, it is important to offer higher reliability and performance.”

A 100 per cent supplier of bus ACs to Force Traveller, ranging from 4kW to 8kW, Subros is an important player in the Indian automotive AC market. It has been busy expanding its reach in the Indian commercial vehicle market for some time now, and has launched a 45kW AC for low floor city bus application. According to Pawan Sabharwal, Director- Marketing, “The heat load in city buses and school buses is high due to frequent opening and closing of doors. For such applications, we have developed a design in collaboration with Denso that uses aluminium based condensors for weight reduction, and for lower air resistance.” He adds, “The design, results in reducing the refrigerant usage despite frequent opening and closing of doors, and brings down the overall power consumption.”

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Chinese ACs

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In a market that has the presence of global majors like Spheros Motherson and Eberspaecher Suetrak, Chinese bus AC manufacturers like Songz, Trans ACNR and Haiger are participating for a share of the market. Trans ACNR and Haiger are ensuring that Chinese bus ACs are not looked upon as low cost and cheap products. “The stress on quality,” says Shatrughan Kumar, Director, Trans ACNR. He adds that stress on quality is working to their advantage. “Since most of the transporters are connected to each other, reference lists and word of mouth publicity also plays a vital role in convincing and executing sales of our products,” he mentions. For better reach, the company has developed a wide product portfolio of ACs. Its Astro series offers copper tubes and aluminium fins. The SL series of ACs offer aluminium coils. Points out Kumar, that India is a price sensitive market. The demand is high for aluminum coil-based ACs in India, he avers. The flagship SL series AC that Trans ACNR offers, weighs 10 per cent less than a conventional AC that would ideally weigh 200 kg at least. This is achieved, says Kumar, by removing the condensor bottom and deploying aluminium coils. Where 10 per cent weight reduction can be achieved by changing coils, another 10 per cent can be shed by making making changes in the structure. Aware of the rising demand for ACs in city buses as well as school buses, Trans ACNR, to address the needs has been importing A & E series models from China. It is expecting a multi-fold rise in demand for ACs under the AMRUT scheme.

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With precise focus on the aftermarket, Haiger India is currently importing Completely Built Units (CBUs) from China. The company is working closely with a list of renowned schools and transporters, and has recently launched two new bus ACs, Alpha 21 and Beta 43 for mid and 12 m city buses. The ACs boast of multi-flow technology. This design is claimed to cool down the hot refrigerant quickly, enabling multi-point entry for the hot refrigerant, which reduces refrigerant usage. Avers Rishi Pathak, Director, Haiger India, “It not only cools faster but also makes the AC more compact, thus reducing weight, and making it easy to handle as well as install.” With an aim to reduce cost, Pathak says, Haiger India will began localising once volumes rise. To offer a complete solution in bus air conditioning, along with AC installation, Haiger India also undertakes high density thermocol and nitrile rubber insulation along the interiors of the bus to increase the efficiency of AC and reduction in load on the engine.

Future ready

The count of conventional buses running on fossil fuel may be more as of current, the same technology may not be used tomorrow. As new propulsion technologies emerge bus AC manufacturers are all set to cater to buses with new propulsion technologies including electricity. Eberspaecher Suetrak premiered the AC 230 model at Busworld Kortrijk. It is a roof top air conditioner that works on air flow reversal function along with a heat pump for electric and hybrid buses. It uses common refrigerants and serves customer specific needs. Eberspaecher Suetrak also offers an additional plate heat exchanger to take the heat out of the battery pack and other operational areas in an electric or hybrid bus. It also offers heat exchangers to address residual sources of heat in the vehicle.

Especially designed for electric and hybrid buses is the Thermo King Athenia Mkll model. With air-to-air reversible electric heat pump, it offers better performance based on reversible refrigeration circuit. Its battery unit works independent of the passenger compartment’s heating and cooling mode. This is claimed to effectively recycle the heat generated by the batteries during bus movement, thereby reducing energy consumption when the heat mode is on. For reducing total power consumption, the pump uses an electric variable speed compressor that modulates heating and cooling capacities up to a range of 60 per cent.

The Revo E bus AC from Spheros has been specially designed for hybrid and electric buses. Spheros Motherson has already supplied the Revo E to the two diesel hybrid buses Volvo has delivered to the Navi Mumbai Transport Corporation. The company is currently importing the model from Neubrandenburg in Germany because it needs special testing and validation before actual deployment. Avers Xavier, that safety is of paramount importance to his company, and it is therefore that the Revo E is tested in Germany before importing rather than test it here. From a cost point of view, Spheros Motherson is mulling to produce the Revo E locally. It is working closely with its German counterparts in this direction. Opines Xavier, that the government should have clear policies. This would help us to phase out and phase in technologies at the right time. “Policy and technology can’t go together, and have to be disconnected if we were to progress faster,” he adds.

Support is crucial

With the rise in demand for AC buses, support is turning out to be a crucial factor. Thermo King claims to have appointed 20 sales and service channel partners and 30 service affiliates across India. Ananth states that emphasis will be on increasing the reach by adding more touch points. “Apart from service training programs for OEM clients, we also conduct service training programs for dealers. We ensure that they are up-to-date on knowledge and have the ability to address the needs of the clients,” he adds. Thermo King has two R&D centres in India, one at Chennai and one at Bengalore. These centres, according to Ananth, help for application and customisation of products. The centres cater to the domestic as well as the international operations of the company.

Spheros Motherson has a network of 40 dealers. With close to 60 per cent of its revenues coming from OEM business, the company is working to expand its reach in the aftermarket by increasing its dealer network. The single shift capacity of the company at its Noida plant for 3000 ACs is already full. Work in the second shift has begun. Apart from bus ACs, Spheros Motherson is also looking at markets like reefer trucks and construction equipment. Claims Xavier that the company holds a 40 per cent market share in Karnataka and is looking at strengthening its market positioning in states like Kerala, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.

It is the Chennai facility of Subros that is serving the CV segment. It is expected to roll out 1,00,000 units annually when fully operational. Currently sourcing compressors from Valeo and Bitzer, the company, according to Sabharwal, could look at making compressors for commercial vehicles in-house once the volumes pick-up. Subros, in the meanwhile, has set up a team of 15 people to man its R&D centre. The centre is instrumental in the introduction of new products and increasing localisation. The plant is claimed, is to achieve a localisation of no less than 60 per cent in a short time. This would help the company to attractively price and position its products. Having dispatched 50 units of 36kW AC units for retrofitment in 12 m buses that will be plying in Qatar, the company has joined hands with Tata Motors for their buses destined for Bangladesh.

Not to be left behind, Haiger India is busy expanding its base in South India. The company has already set up a service station in Hyderabad, and is set to launch two new plants at Zaheerabad and Pune respectively with a combined area of over 1.3 lakh sq. ft. Once operational, the two units will hike the company’s manufacturing capacity to 1900 units in the next one year from the current count of 1000 units. Haiger’s capacity will almost double. This will help it to increase its market reach and address the market requirements better. Haiger sources draw attention to the 14 service centres the company currently has in India. Out of these, five are in Maharashtra. The aim, claim sources, is to have over 20 service centres across India in the next one year. Trans ACNR has five service centres for complete vehicle support in Delhi, Chandigarh, Bengaluru Chennai and Cochin. Plans are underway to add five more centres in the current fiscal. An amount of support is provided by the company through its resident engineers at Jaipur, Jalandhar, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Patna, and Hyderabad.

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Towards a bright future

The need for bus ACs is rising. The demand for AC buses is growing. Rising disposable income in India is said to be a reason. The other reason is said to be the rising temperature levels in cities and towns across India. Rising urbanisation and growing infrastructure is creating a market for buses, and AC buses are no longer looked upon as costly alternatives to conventional non-AC buses. Travellers are ready to pay for comfort. With STUs and city bus undertakings warming up to the prospect of AC buses in their fleet, the journey towards a brighter future looks certain for bus AC manufacturers. Investment in additional capacities is certain to help bus AC manufacturers to increase their market reach and offer a deal that promises ‘best value for money’. Investment in R&D centres, application engineering centres and service networks are steps in the right direction. Such steps will ensure that the industry grows beyond the estimated rate of growth of 15 per cent.

Tata Motors AC buses for Bilaspur

Tata Motors has delivered 10 new fully integrated air-conditioned midi buses to Bilaspur under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme. Private operators registered under Bilaspur Urban Public Transport Society (BUPTS) will regulate the daily functioning of these air-conditioned midi buses, which will ply in the city of Bilaspur. Measuring nine-metre in length, the buses have a 900 mm floor height. Expected to facilitate swifter movement of the bus through congested routes, the BS III emission compliant buses have been built by Tata Marcopolo, Dharwad. They are equipped with an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) with an inbuilt On Board Intelligent Transport System (OBITS) framework in accordance with the UBS II norms. Additional features include fire detection and fire suppression system, passenger information system, an automatic vehicle location system, a security camera network system, on board vehicle health monitoring and diagnostics, and a single control unit in a bid to provide for commuter safety, passenger comfort and connectivity.