As part of the Tech Chat series, Auto Tech Review organised two webinars in June – one titled “New and Emerging Technologies in the Automotive Industry” and the other on “Effects of New Normal on Mobility Industry”
Auto Tech Review as part of its ‘Tech Chat’ series recently conducted a Student Lecture webinar titled ‘New and Emerging Technologies in the Automotive Industry’ in association with the automobile engineering department of Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies. The webinar featured Dr Shankar Venugopal, Vice President – Technology, Innovation & KM, Dean Mahindra Technical Academy, Mahindra & Mahindra and S Ramanathan, Managing Director, Automotive Test Systems (ATS). The webinar was moderated by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah, Editor-in-Chief, Auto Tech Review. The first webinar deliberated at length on how the robust growth of the country’s auto industry has been derailed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The speakers acknowledged the tough times the industry is in, but remained hopeful that investments will continue happening in the industry.
ELECTRIC & CONNECTED MOBILITY
Dr Shankar Venugopal, Vice President – Technology, Innovation & KM, Dean Mahindra Technical Academy, Mahindra & Mahindra, said the auto industry must look at turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to reboot, reinvent and reignite. Sharing his perspective on EV adoption issues like range anxiety and high cost of batteries, Dr Venugopal said the country has EVs that can cover 150-250 km per charge, but not all are convinced that this is enough. Batteries represent around 40-50 % of an EV cost, which could lead to apprehensions among car owners over replacement worries, he noted. He urged the student community to specialise in mechanicals, electricals and electronics, not just in terms of knowing the concepts, but also being adept at practical skills and competencies to work on a product.
S Ramanathan, Managing Director, Automotive Test Systems (ATS), said virtual testing can serve as a necessary tool to shorten development cycles, develop safer assistance systems and reduce development costs. All possible scenarios and vehicle setups can be simulated, tested and verified on these systems accurately without real-model testing, which are an expensive and a time-consuming process. Ramanathan said although India is still lagging behind, in terms of active simulation testing and validation, this is still an exciting career for young engineers.
The speakers felt that budding engineers can develop their skills on electrification and simulation testing to carve out successful careers. However, there are concerns over cost-effectiveness and feasibility of many systems in the Indian scenario, but a lot of work is being carried out to overcome these. There was a line of thought that virtual testing will reduce testing & validation cycles, and increase safety system adoptions across all vehicle segments. Specialised engineers (whether software or hardware) will be needed for the future of safer and sustainable mobility in India.
The second webinar on ‘Effects of New Normal on Mobility Industry’ focussed on how the auto industry can rebound from the scourge of COVID-19. The webinar featured eminent speakers such as Deepak Jain, President, Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA) and Chairman & Managing Director, Lumax Industries; Ganesh Mani S, Director – Production, Hyundai India; Dr Arun Jaura, Managing Director, Michelin India Technical Centre; Sarwant Singh, Managing Partner – MEASA, & Global Head of the Mobility, Aerospace, Defence & Security Practice, Frost & Sullivan and Krishan Kohli, Managing Director, Continental Automotive Brake Systems (India). The webinar was moderated by Arun Malhotra, former MD, Nissan India. The speakers dwelt on how consumer confidence can be restored and the economy can fast-forward towards pre-COVID-19 times.
Deepak Jain said the industry has made substantial investments in the BS 6 technology and added that now is the time to conserve cash and focus on building robust business models. The ACMA President said the industry would take around four years to touch the demand levels of 2018.
Sarwant Singh threw light on how the pandemic has hit the auto industry and believes that India needs to move faster towards introducing more digitalisation across processes. Digital retailing as well as digital customer journeys will lead to personalisation and customisation across markets, including health and wellbeing, and it is imperative that stakeholders come together as an industry to develop more integrated and cohesive solutions for market, he added.
Ganesh Mani S said OEMs such as Hyundai have been focussing on automation as well as single source economies of scale. The company has utilised the COVID-19 times to coin a term called ‘innovative qualitivity’ that analyses its sales, revenue and productivity norms, he remarked. He stated that automotive industry stakeholders can adopt a single liner vector approach so that they are prepared for newer developments as well as execute them with optimal costs.
Dr Arun Jaura pointed out that the industry largely believes in the physical prototype testing and there was not much focus on virtual engineering before COVID-19. It is time that such techniques are harnessed at an accelerated level as it can lead to as high as 37 % cost efficiency as well as six months advantage in time to market, he noted.
Krishan Kohli said the auto sector was struggling before the arrival of COVID-19 and was witnessing a dip in sales due to increased cost of ownership typically in the range of 20-25 % as well as liquidity crunch due to NBFC crises, leading to structural changes across the industry. With over-capacity resulting in various kinds of pressures, future trends such as digitalisation and electrification would require upfront investments for changing customer behaviour, he pointed out.
Irrespective of what the new normal might bring for the overall industry, it is imperative for stakeholders to create a balance between what to learn from the history and what to move away from. The speakers agreed that the future will not be about leap-frogging, but about pole-vaulting at the new paradigms. The COVID-19 times can be utilised by the industry to move from capex to opex-based models in order to become asset light and optimise costs. The auto sector needs the government’s intervention and the industry’s business models need to be more robust as well as financially prudent as these will help generate multiple opportunities for the auto sector to consolidate and grow.