Aston Martin recently launched its DB 11 Vantage luxury car in India that features a 4 l, twin-turbo V8 engine developing over 500 hp power and 695 Nm torque. Following the launch of the new Vantage that is energised by the premium Total Quartz engine oil range, Aston Martin along with Total Oil India carried out a roadshow of the car across eight cities in India. On the sidelines of the roadshow, Auto Tech Review caught up with Tajendra Gupta, Senior Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Technical – Lubricants Division, Total Oil India Pvt Ltd, to understand about its association with Aston Martin and other OEMs, market trends, BS VI norm requirements, along with future oil technologies.
OEM PARTNERSHIPS, MARKET TRENDS
Total serves as a global partner for Aston Martin with regards to the automaker’s energy requirements that encompass special lubricants and special fuels. Both companies also collaborate for Aston Martin Racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance racing championship. Gupta said since Total is a global partner with the car manufacturer, it felt apt to participate with Aston Martin during the launch and following showcase of the car. Maintaining relationship with a company like Aston Martin is fairly easy, since the requirements are highly-specialised and technologically-advanced, with numbers being low, he added.
However, things are changing rapidly when it comes to forging OEM partnerships in a market like India, observed Gupta. Every customer wants to attain the most fuel economy for every drop of fuel in the engine, while the CO2 emission standards are getting exceedingly stringent. Gupta noted that lubricants offer the easiest and cheapest solutions to attain these customer demands. Total is working heavily towards addressing these demands, and this involves challenges to define the lubricant, especially since the level of viscosity of lubricants is coming down drastically. The level of viscosity of lubricants required at present is less than half of that when compared to six to seven years ago, he noted.
In addition, India-specific challenges such as stop-and-go traffic conditions that result in heavy engine load and frequent changes in speed make the situation more complex. Gupta also said OEMs are focussing on huge improvements in engines, in terms of getting large outputs from smaller engines, while also reducing the engine size and weight. These factors lead to higher heat generation from new-age engines, putting additional pressure on lubricants to perform better. All these challenges are compounded by the fact that drain periods are also increasing, thereby making it an interesting phase for Total to come out with specific lubricants in the market, explained Gupta.
BS VI STANDARDS
Gupta said the move from BS IV to BS VI emission norms may not have any direct impact on the market at present, since BS VI vehicles will take some time to roll out, but OEMs need to be prepared for this change. On its part, Total is well placed to meet the challenges of its OEM customers. Total has worked with OEMs in Japan, US and Europe to come up with specific lubricants to address next-generation emission norms, which provide it with technologies readily available for BS VI. In addition, the company has right sourcing mechanisms of lubricants in place, with a little fine-tuning needed for the India market, Gupta said.
While certain degree of customisation is necessary for lubricants already available with the company, customisation for the India market is from a cost perspective, noted Gupta. In Europe, the drain cycles are now being fixed at 20,000-30,000 km, while India is presently at drain cycles of 10,000 km for the conditions present here, he explained. Gupta said these technologies are expensive at present in India because of low consumption, and once the economies of scale are met, costs will drop. Further, developing newer lubricant technologies demand high investments, which will need larger volumes to make economic sense.
Refuelling was allowed earlier in the racing arena, but has been stopped now and this has created the need for race vehicles to run longer with the fuel that they have, for which engine and transmission technologies play a key role. The lubricant also plays a critical role in helping achieve such goals – it also plays a crucial role in reducing the level of friction in the engine so that the maximum can be driven out of the powertrain, explained Gupta.
The lubricant needs to play a key role in the engine, transmission, as well as other key powertrain components in order to drive increased vehicle efficiency. While Total conducts its core R&D from Lyon in France, it has a technical centre in Navi Mumbai that is fully-equipped to address the R&D requirements rising out of Asia, and then works along with the central R&D centre of the company. The centre is also the global excellence centre for two-wheeler lubricants development, where Total’s High-Perf range of two-wheeler engine oils were completely conceptualised and developed. Gupta said the company adopted an unconventional approach, in terms of an India-specific development for this two-wheeler lubricant, since the number of vehicles in the segment is high, requiring specific demands. The High-Perf product has made significant market inroads, and will take Total to the next level of growth in India, he noted.
Total’s portfolio in India includes products for two and three-wheelers, passenger vehicles, off-highway segment and tractors – it also has partnerships with Tier 1 suppliers as well that help in developing solutions for various powertrain components. Gupta said industrial oils constitute around 45 % of the Indian lubricant market, a sector in which Total’s presence has been negligible. The company will have to compete with public sector companies, for which it needs to offer technological advanced products that result in being a cut above its competitors.
TEXT: Naveen Arul