AVTEC Ltd works with its many partners in co-developing technologies relating to the automotive powertrain and transmission segments. The company looks at carrying on this method, as well as partner with newer companies to further enhance its product range. We spoke to Prabhakar Kadapa, Managing Director & CEO, AVTEC Ltd, regarding the company's strategy in introducing new products and technologies, as well as its future business plans.
Continuous Product Development
"Being a powertrain player, we have to continuously strengthen our product range," Kadapa said, while asked about the development of future products. Within the transmission domain, Avtec is looking at introducing Automated Manual Transmissions (AMTs) and off-highway products. Primarily a manual transmission market, India is gradually accepting AMTs, and that gives Kadapa hope for the future. Improvement in the condition of roads in the country and increased sophistication requirement of customers are some of the key reasons for growing acceptance of AMTs, he said.
AVTEC is evaluating two options in the development of AMTs – to develop on its own, or find a suitable partner in co-developing these transmissions. The company sees advantages of reduced development and marketing times, while working with a partner, who already has some experience in the technology, and is leaning towards this option. This helps in curbing the time taken to design, validate and market the product, Kadapa said. The other option is to co-develop initial models with partners, and subsequently bring out products on its own. This has been a business model that has worked in favour of the company earlier, Kadapa said.
AMTs have different methods of being actuated, and Avtec will produce transmissions that would be more user-friendly than that of competitors, Kadapa claimed, adding that manufacturing these products in India, which is low cost country, will ensure the best cost proposition.
New Products & Current Developments
Avtec recently manufactured a new transfer case coupled with transmission, which it claims to be more advanced than products currently available in the market. The characteristic feature of this transfer case is in delivering low NVH levels. It features an electric motor and has an electronic control unit (ECU) that will interface with the engine and transmission together.
A new engine was also recently developed and supplied by its partner, Peugeot Citroen Motors. This is a 1.8 l, Euro V compliant petrol engine that is currently being exported, with a possible future launch in India, Kadapa noted. Critical parts of this engine will be manufactured in India, and will then be assembled at the country of export, with the price-point being a core reason for this arrangement.
The transfer case and transmission combo, and the 1.8 l engine is packaged as a single piece, and is currently being supplied to General Motors in Russia. This complete package can be used for any vehicle for permanent 4x4 applications, be it an SUV or truck.
Another new product for the company is a bicycle that has an electric motor, which can be used while going uphill, in order to relieve the stress on a rider's feet. This product is being developed by Avtec's Swiss acquisition, ASSAG, with the electric motor using face gear (crown gear) technology. This is currently in the prototyping stage. ASSAG is also working on developing gear boxes for different applications, Kadapa said.
To reduce weight, Avtec has introduced new technologies like face gears instead of bevel gears in its transfer cases. This change reduces the weight of the transfer case, since the overall size of the gears also become smaller due to the robustness of the design, he explained.
Likewise, the company is exploring options to reduce weight on almost all its products, which are very unique to each model. Avtec does not, however, look at using any new materials in its production, but only change configurations in the use of standard materials with the assistance of computer aided designing. "We do not want to do research of a material from its science point of view, but rather only from its application point of view," said Kadapa.
R&D And Future Plans
There are areas where AVTEC sets-up its own electronics R&D departments. One such example is the transfer case, where the mechanical shift was replaced with an electrical shift plus electronic control, Kadapa noted. Also, while Avtec is not looking at entering the space of electric vehicles in India for now, ASSAG is said to be currently developing electric technologies for a German customer. AVTEC can bring in these technologies to India whenever it seems to be appropriate, Kadapa concluded. For now, the company is keen on focussing on its core competencies in the areas of transmission and powertrain, and no diversification is on its radar.
Text: Naveen Arul