TG Kirloskar Automotive Private Limited, the Bangalore-based manufacturer of safety system products, Interior and exterior parts, is planning to diversify into the production of new components in the area of plastics. A viable area of interest is vehicle body panels in plastic. Speaking to Auto Tech Review, Amit Jain, Deputy Managing Director, TG Kirloskar Automotive said research and development work on the replacement feasibility of certain metal parts with plastics is being undertaken at the company’s headquarters in Japan.
Weight reduction is a major area of focus for most automotive manufacturers, owing to the efficiency benefits it offers. The use of plastics, polymers and even high-end solutions like carbon-fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) is increasingly gaining in popularity and acceptance. Transformation to such solutions isn’t going to happen overnight. There is a process that needs to be followed, Jain said, and added that it is unlikely to see commercial application in a short time.
Jain believes technology would continue to be the main catalyst in driving the company further. The company does have plans to introduce newer technologies into its manufacturing processes, specific to the Indian context. Although no amount of R&D work happens in India, certain development activities on new processes and products are undertaken. The Bangalore plant is solely dedicated to manufacturing.
CHALLENGES WITHIN THE SECTOR
The ineffective implementation of free trade area (FTA) agreements by the government is one of the major concern areas, said Jain. Moreover, a large part of raw materials are still being imported, which doesn’t augur well for the sector. “The monopolistic control some companies have over the import of raw materials, paired with poor foreign exchange rates, acts as a very big challenge. Therefore, localisation of processes, including raw materials and components, is the answer to help improve the performance of this sector in the long-run,” said Jain. Growing competition can be curbed only with the introduction of new technology that will create fresh markets and improve competitiveness.
Established in 1998, TG Kirloskar Automotive Private Limited is the Indian unit of Japan’s automotive parts manufacturer Toyoda Gosei (TG). The company presently caters only to the automotive sector, with no plans of diversifying its product line into any other sector at this point of time. The Tier I supplier is into the manufacturing of plastics and PU-based products for the automotive sector, including bumpers and grille as exterior products and consoles and instrument clusters for interior applications.
A number of other parts, which use a combination of plastic and polyurethane (PU) are also manufactured, an example being the steering wheel. Other categories of plastics used for production are polypropylene (PP), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (PC/ABS). ABS and PC/ABS are hard, paintable, platable and are highly resistant to heat – qualities and properties that explain why they are preferred. They are mainly used in the production of grills for vehicles.
TG Kirloskar currently supplies its products to two OEMs, one being Toyota Kirloskar Motor, while the other was not named. Having limited access to the Indian market, in terms of customers, performance of the OEMs directly reflects on the performance of TG Kirloskar. The slowdown in car sales across the market this year has meant slowing business for the company as well, Jain said.
Text: Naveen Arul