Story & Photos by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Against the background of disappointing CV sales in May 2019, VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV) has launched two new trucks (Pro 2049 and Pro 2095) with a GVW of five-tonnes and 10.7-tonnes respectively. The Pro 2049 and Pro 2095 mark the launch of Pro 2000 series in-turn. Flaunting a new, walk-through safety day cabin measuring 1.8 m in width (on the Pro 2049) and two-metre in width (on the Pro 2095), the trucks hint at a quantum leap at the light and medium duty level at VECV. They also point at a quantum leap at the manufacturing level. The new cabin is made on a new line in VECV’s Pithampur plant, and was developed after a long gap of 33 years. Signaling a departure from the legacy cabin that dates back to the first six-tonne truck that was launched in 1986 (in collaboration with Mitsubishi), the new cabin styling conforms to the Pegasus business look of all the Eicher CVs. If the legacy cabin posed certain limitations because of its dimensions (the two-metre width mainly), and despite it being updated from time to time, the new cabin of the Pro 2000 series trucks incorporates a pasted windshield. The modern clear lens projector-style lamps with DRLs add to the modern stance of the cabin whose fit and finish standards are among the best in its class. If the stylish paint job of the day cabin contributes to a modern outlook, the three-piece bumper with fog lamps placed in carved out recesses points at a desire to provide a certain aspiration-value to the customer. The front windshield that provides very good visibility is pasted.

With an eye on export markets like Far East Asia, Africa, Latin America, and others, the two Pro 2000 series trucks are designed and developed to help their operators to achieve significantly higher profitability, reliability, safety, style and comfort. Reflecting the CV major’s vision to drive modernisation. Expressed Vinod Aggarwal, Managing Director, and CEO, VECV, “The Pro 2000 series platform is state-of-the-art, and has been developed by keeping in mind the brand promise of best-in-class fuel efficiency, superior uptime, and relevant modernisation.” The development of the modern cabin triggered by a need to set a longer horizon in terms of comfort and efficiency, and the company’s vision and brand promise, VECV, with the Pro 2000 series trucks, is aiming to address the changing needs of operators. Set to address a market size of 11,000 to 12,000 units, the two new Eicher trucks feature large tapering windows on the sides, which should provide a good near-side view and eliminate a dangerous dark spot in the process. It should also aid the driver in manoeuvring the truck through narrow passages. If the well-defined wheel arches, dandy vertically placed door handles, and concealed steps add to the new cabin’s modern build, climb inside and the interior looks as modern as the exterior.

Modern interiors

Devoid of a basic feel, the interior of the Pro 2000 series points at a car-like feel. Designed and engineered such that it would provide a certain aspiration-value as well as comfort and convenience to drive longer, achieve higher uptime and higher profitability, the ones that draw attention are the well-designed dashboard and the multi-function steering wheel. At the centre of the dash are a touchscreen infotainment system and the air-conditioning controls. Engineered to stay 10-degree cooler than the competition truck, the cabin comes with a sleeping provision, according to Vishal Mathur, Senior Vice President – Sales & Marketing, LMD Trucks, VECV. Also engineered to have the lowest noise in its class, the digital instrument console gets pretty close to the consoles found in passenger vehicles. Apart from the key indications regarding speed, engine rpm, fuel, and engine temperature, the instrumentation includes fuel coaching, which advises the driver to change gear to extract the best fuel efficiency. Other bits like the digital air-clogging indicator, gear shift indicator, electronic air pressure switch make up the rest of the information provided to the driver.

Unveiling its first BSVI compliant truck (with SCR and DPF technology) in the form of Pro 2095 (It also unveiled two BSVI engines – E474 and E494), and which will be made available once BSVI diesel is available at the pumps, VECV has paid attention to the provision of best-in-class fuel efficiency and payload. It has been doing so in other trucks by shaving weight and employing new technologies that contribute towards efficiency. Making an effective tool to offer the lowest TCO in their class, the two new Pro 2000 series trucks were developed over the last four years. Their development process involved closed workshops and clinics. Extensive customer feedback was obtained. Boasting of Bluetooth and advanced (Eicher Live) telematics connectivity, the two Pro 2000 series trucks are made from a stronger yet lighter Domex steel chassis. Featuring disc brakes all round (a first in its class), the two trucks, according to Aggarwal, exhibit a superior ability to shed speed. “The use of disc brakes on all wheels has led to a reduction in braking distance by roughly 10 m,” he mentioned.

Performance and fuel efficiency

Laced with ‘m-booster’ technology that provides the driver with two drive modes – power and eco, the two Pro 2000 series trucks are powered by the E483 turbo-diesel engine. On the Pro 2049, the 3.3-litre E483 unit develops 95 hp and 300 Nm of maximum torque at 1200-1800 rpm. On the Pro 2095, the same engine does 115 hp and 400 Nm of torque at 1300-1500 rpm. In BSVI guise, the engine profits from VECV’s experience of making BSVI engines for the last six years and supplying 1000s of them to Volvo Group. Averred Aggarwal, “We have all the experience in manufacturing BSVI engines. We also have a lot of experience from the Volvo Group about the challenges faced in the market at the BSVI level; issues faced by the customers.” “We have incorporated all the learnings into the development of BSVI engines,” he added. Announcing that they are in a very good position to deliver BSVI technology, Aggarwal stated, “The Pro 2000 series trucks are built to offer maximum profitability.” Expressing that the two Pro 2000 series trucks gain from advanced manufacturing practices and technology, Mathur said, “The drive experience is quite car-like.”

The Eicher Pro 2049 is equipped with a five-speed 3M 5D transmission. The Eicher Pro 2095, at the other end, is equipped with a six-speed E4M63 transmission. Offering a four-stage blower and well-carved out storage spaces to safely store documents, money, etc., the two Pro 2000 series trucks make good use of plastics to lower the weight. If the quality and fit and finish of the plastics used inside the cabin as well as outside points at detailed attention towards durability and aspirational-value, the two Pro 2000 series trucks are supported by an amount of automation at the manufacturing level. Said Mathur, “The high-quality build of the cabin comes from the use of modern manufacturing technology.” “The cab-line is laced with 22 robots,” he added. Offering a 2.7-tonne payload, the Pro 2049 will replace the Pro 1049, according to Aggarwal. With a compact turning circle of 10 m, the truck is had with a 10.4 ft x 6.1 ft. cargo body. Proving to be of much use for e-commerce, FMCG, milk, meat, vegetables, and transporters of other goods, the Pro 2049 has a ground clearance of 160 mm. It is equipped with tubeless radial 16-inch dia. tyres, and should be well-placed to travel over a variety of surfaces for deliveries.

One truck, many business needs.

As versatile as the Pro 2049, the Pro 2095 could be had with five cargo body options – 14.1 ft., 17.6 ft., 19 ft., 20 ft., and 21.5 ft. It has a payload of 7.2-tonnes and would make a smart choice for a fleet owner looking at executing diverse duties. Coming from a company that describes itself as a long-term player with a top-line of Rs.12000 crores, and sold 73 units last year, clocking a CAGR growth of 11 per cent, the two Pro 2000 series trucks have a lot of expectations riding on them. They are expected to offer a transporter a means to aspire; to achieve more. Signalling a significant change at VECV, the two trucks are pointing at a change at the engineering and manufacturing level to address the changing requirements of CV buyers and end users. The aspiration value that the two new trucks highlight, reflects on the CV major’s efforts to build capabilities; to keep growing and hand hold its vendors and dealers by practicing discipline of the high order.

Offering customers solutions that will deliver higher profitability against challenges like GST, and the need to rationalise it, the two new Pro 2000 series trucks are a clear indicator of how VECV is moving up the ladder, arming itself to not lose grip of the LMD segments while it tries to increase its reach into the heavy segments. Confident of ensuring that its CVs are as fuel efficient or more when the migration to BSVI takes place, the company is looking at long-term gains. It is keeping an eye on the disruptions caused by regulations like the axle norms, and the emergence of new fleets like Rivigo. Keen that the market expands, and its efforts to provide the exacting solutions succeed, VECV is already looking at the economy growing with the hope that the liquidity crisis fades away in the next few months. Clear about profitability, the CV major is innovating; is striving to offer the most uptime. Expressed Aggarwal, “The CV market is driven by the economy. It slows down if the economy slows down.” Stressing on the expectation of a scrappage scheme being implemented by the government, he drew attention to the drop in sales performance of construction trucks in the last two months. Stating that the election season is behind us and a strong government is in place at the centre, Aggarwal said, “The scrapprage norms will help to contain environmental damage.” Explaining that the auto sector is heavily taxed, Aggarwal said that they are expecting pre-buying to start from September 2019. “With pre-buying, industry growth will re-emerge,” he opined.

Vinod Aggarwal, MD & CEO, VECV

Q. What triggered the development of the Pro 2000 series?

A. Our vision to drive modernisation in commercial transportation was the prime trigger to develop the Pro 2000 series. The other was our brand promise of best-in-class fuel efficiency, superior uptime, and relevant modernisation. Our vision and brand promise led us to look at a longer horizon. It gave us an insight into the new approach that was necessary at the light-duty level. This led us to come out with totally state-of-the-art trucks.

Q. You have offered a new cabin at the light and medium-duty level after a gap of 33 years. Isn’t that too long?

A. The legacy cabin did see many upgrades, but the need for a completely new cabin designed and developed ground up was felt to provide new features. The new cabin is had in 1.8 m and 2 m width. The legacy cabin, in comparison, is had only in 2 m width and led to some compromise in a few product segments. The 1.8 m cabin will make a highly relevant cabin for four- and five-tonne applications. Even 3.5-tonnes.

Q. You have revealed your export aspirations with the Pro 2000 series. How do you plan to address them?

A. We are already present in many markets around the world. It is no secret that the UD Kuzer built at the Pithampur plant is exported to the Far East Asian markets. We are looking at addressing our export aspirations by talking to Volvo and how we could utilise their network in the export markets to increase our reach.

Q. Did Volvo have a role to play in the development of the Pro 2000 series?

A. The Pro 2000 series was developed by us. From the Volvo Group, we can avail of any help or assistance. There is a cross flow of processes that takes place between them and us. They are the 50 per cent owners.

Q. The Pro 2000 series trucks are the first to be projected as BSVI trucks. How different are they when compared to your existing BSIV range?

A. These trucks will offer a wider choice to our customers. These trucks were designed and developed by keeping the needs of the customers in mind and are therefore capable of providing the option of different load body dimensions for the customer to choose from. The Pro 2000 series trucks will also ensure a wider choice of cabins. For a 5-tonne application, the customer could now have a 1.8 m wide cabin rather than a 2 m wide cabin. This will have a certain cost implication that the customer could benefit from.

Q. What were the challenges faced in BSVI development? How were they turned into opportunities?

A. A lot of indigenisation has happened. It is because of this that the cost increase is pegged at between 10 to 15 per cent. Vendors specialising in after-treatment technologies, in SCR technologies are setting up shop in India. That has benefited the cause of cost. For processes like validation, we are leveraging Volvo know-how. We are leveraging their knowledge about the challenges faced. We have manufacturing knowledge. We are accessing the Volvo knowledge on the issues they are facing in the last six years regarding the BSVI engines we have supplied.

Q. Aren’t the BSVI cycles different from the Euro6 cycles?

A. The cycles are different, but on a fundamental basis, the emission norms are the same almost. Keeping the Indian duty cycles in mind, we are doing a lot of development.

Q. Will BSVI lead to a fall or increase in fuel efficiency?

A. Fuel efficiency, on a fundamental basis, will decrease during the move to BSVI from BSIV. We will, however, ensure that fuel efficiency is maintained or further improved upon. Since there will be an addition of the urea solution to the cost equation, we will ensure that there will be no cost increase in terms of the operating cost. We already have SCR technology in the Pro 6000 and Pro 8000 series.

Q. Given the sales drop in heavy-duty truck segments versus the way the light and the medium-duty market has maintained its momentum, is the Indian CV market going into a down-cycle or coming out of it?

A. The heavy-duty segments have experienced a fall due to the axle load norms among other factors. There’s been a 25 per cent drop. The increase in capacity due to axle norms has led to a slowdown in the heavy-duty segments. Operators are no longer resorting to an aggressive replacement cycle. They seem to get into the wait and watch mode. With the availability of capacity, they would want to add only if the economy picks up. I am confident that growth will return to the sector with the economy picking up. The lack of demand is also putting much pressure on the dealers. We have a highly disciplined approach in this regard. You will not get an inventory backlog with any of our dealers.

Q. Do you see small operators falling by the side as the transport industry scenario changes? As new challenges emerge?

A. There are next-generation companies with deep pockets that are causing disruptions. They are influencing competition and rates, which could prove to be difficult for smaller players to sustain. In the end, it is about profitability.

Q. What benefits do you see by replacing the Pro 1049 with this?

A. We are looking at clocking more numbers with the Pro 2049. The Pro 2049, we feel, will help us to expand that respective segment. With the Pro 2000 series trucks, we are providing an opportunity for transporters to move up. There is a scope for expansion as the current size is 11,000 to 12,000 units. We are targeting more customers by providing them with different payload points. With the capability to address their needs, we are confident of the segment growing. We are confident that features like touch screen infotainment and other car-like features will draw the customer. The liquidity issue we expect to get resolved in some time. We see no issue with the business model. If some existing players find it tough to sustain, they could be replaced by new ones. The fundamentals will fall into place.

Q. When will BSVI fuel be available as you will have to time you BSVI CV launches accordingly?

A. The government is saying that BSVI fuel will be available. We believe in that. They are saying that it will be available when it is required. We will build the BSVI vehicle and keep it ready. The unavailability of fuel keeping in view the Supreme Court order, the economy will be impacted as no freight will move. The unavailability of fuel could turn out to be a major disruption. The other scenario could be to have people buying BSVI vehicles and pouring BSIV fuel in the tank.

Q. Would you need to upgrade the dealership to tackle BSVI CVs and the accompanying challenges?

A. That is a major challenge in front of us. The competency of our technicians and after sales personnel will be important. The provision of the right infrastructure would be also necessary. There is an amount of hand-holding that will have to be done.

Q. Any innovation that you are banking on as the time to move to BSVI comes close?

A. We are innovating in providing the best and most uptime. We are investing in an uptime centre at Pithampur, which would enable remote diagnostics and facilitate fast repairs. We will be able to execute repairs on a remote basis. We will be able to take control of the vehicle from a remote location through the standard fitting of telematics on each truck. By doing this, we could do over-the-air repair.

Q. Would the coming of BSVI CVs empower OEMs like you to export them to advanced markets?

A. This may not be possible as the advanced markets are at Stage III of BSVI whereas we are at Stage I. The advanced markets are almost at the Euro7 level. The requirements of the advanced markets also differ quite a bit. The engine that power our heavy-duty trucks power their medium-duty trucks. The speeds are higher and the demand for luxury is more. Those standards of trucks are yet to be reached at. Some markets will open as the BSVI level is reached. For markets like Russia, there will be a need to invest in additional technologies like cold start and cabin heating. The engines also have to be modified to take care of the climatic conditions. The investment should be justified.

Q. What has been the investment in the Pro 2000 series project?

A. The project was going on for three to four years, and the investment, including the creation of capacity, was around Rs.800 crores. For BSVI, we have developed our capability like anything. We have invested in upgrading our advanced engine lab. We have built capabilities in that area. Of the 700 strong team of engineers we have, 50 to 200 engineers work on engines.

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