Tata Motors’ ‘Turnaround 2.0’ programme has worked wonders for its commercial vehicle segment as it has delivered a robust sales performance on the back of a slew of new product launches across various segments. Auto Tech Review recently spoke to RT Wasan, Vice President, Sales & Marketing (Domestic Operations), Commercial Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors Ltd, to know about how it is bracing up for the future.
RT Wasan has had a work stint of over 23 years at Tata Motors and has been serving in his current role since August 2015. He joined Tata Motors in the Hire Purchase department, looking after the financing of commercial vehicles before he joined the Dharwad manufacturing facility as a Project Manager in 1996. Wasan subsequently served as Assistant Product Manager of the commercial vehicles business in July 1999, and then later as Product Manager for the Medium & Heavy Commercial Vehicles division. He also served as Regional Manager for the Western region of Tata Motors’ Commercial Vehicle Business Unit as well as serving as Regional Head for Africa, Latin America and SAARC regions. Wasan took over as the Head of the Commercial Vehicles International Business in July 2009, where he spent six years, leading the company’s growth in the international market, while opening up new markets for the company. He is a Mechanical Engineer with a Post Graduate degree in Marketing Management.
ATR _ What’s your take on the growth journey of the Indian commercial vehicle industry?
RT Wasan _ Substantial government infrastructure spending, affordable housing coupled with rural projects such as irrigation have provided a real boost to the Indian CV industry. Segment-wise, the M&HCV segment grew significantly over the same period, backed by the impressive growth of the construction segment, propelled by the government’s push for affordable housing under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, and heightened focus on road construction. In fact, the implementation of the increased axle load in all existing vehicles from July 2018 benefitted the M&HCV segment, resulting in a 20-22 % spike in the freight carrying capacity.
The segment comprising small commercial vehicles (SCV) and pick-ups also grew at a decent pace, largely spurred by discretionary consumer spending. The growth in the government’s Swachh Bharat initiatives, e-commerce, emergence of third party logistics and creation of the hub-and-spoke model will continue to support SCVs as well as ILCVs. Further, demand for tippers is also increasing owing to resumption of mining activities in select states.
The GST cut on several FMCG items and durables last year as well as the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission norms and 2 % DA hike paved the way for increased disposable income, which in turn, have boosted demand. Given the reduction in crude prices and the stronger rupee that have resulted in a significant reduction in diesel prices coupled with easing liquidity crunch, the commercial vehicle industry is poised to grow further.
With the automotive industry migrating to BS VI from April 2020, the CV space is expected to witness strong pre-buying in the ensuing months as we approach the transition deadline. On this front, we are focussing on tapping all these opportunities in order to grow our volumes as well as market share in the CV space.
The CV space is abuzz with talk about adoption of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) technologies – give us your perspective on how both these technologies can be best leveraged?
Tata Motors had adopted the EGR technology in 2010 and SCR technology in 2014. These technologies that are leveraged in commercial vehicles in order to adhere to the regulatory emission requirements are also chosen keeping in mind the impact it has on the vehicle performance, reliability of the engine and vehicles, its driveability, and the total cost of ownership; thus, ultimately benefitting customers.
The EGR technology is beneficial for low or medium duty cycles (for example, city bus applications, short-haul rated load applications, etc.), whereas the SCR technology is better suited for heavy-duty cycles, such as long haul heavy trucks & tractors, inter-city bus, etc.
On the global front, most OEMs have been leveraging the much superior SCR technology as it ensures better driveability, performance and operating economics for customers. The selection of the SCR technology will also enable smoother migration during BS VI transition. The EGR technology is more suitable for lighter duty applications, especially in the intermediate and light commercial vehicles (ILCV) and medium commercial vehicles (MCV) segments, where the demand on the engine output is relatively lesser.
We took the lead in introducing the SCR technology in India and have been the leading player in leveraging this technology in all our heavy-duty trucks and tippers, subsequently resulting in higher customer acceptance of our products. For the light duty applications, we have provided the EGR solution for our range of ILCV and MCV vehicles through our new generation engines in the Turbotronn series that have gained widespread customer acceptance. We are banking on our EGR technology to power small-to-medium category of CVs with engine power requirements up to 180 hp.
The SCR technology has Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) consumption unlike the EGR technology – provide us an insight into DEF consumption?
Typically, both EGR and SCR technologies are leveraged to minimise emissions for reducing oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in exhaust gases, and thus, meet the BS IV emission norms. The EGR technology recirculates exhaust gases back into the cylinder and burns them again. A portion of the exhaust gases are first cooled through a heat exchanger and then blended with fresh air before being returned to the cylinder. The exhaust gases have less oxygen and more carbon dioxide than the rest of the incoming air, which lowers the combustion temperature and results in reduced nitrogen oxides (NOx).
With the SCR technology, the NOx reduction process takes place after combustion so as not to dilute the engine performance. The diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) comprising urea and deionised water is sprayed into the hot exhaust gases. This mixture passes through a catalytic chamber in the exhaust system. When the hot exhaust combines with the DEF within the catalytic chamber, the exhaust is broken down into harmless nitrogen and water vapour – two natural components of the air we breathe.
Could you explain to us the ‘Turnaround 2.0’ programme adopted by the company?
Tata Motors’ turnaround strategy has panned out to be highly fruitful – our commercial vehicle business has outgrown the industry till date and delivered a robust sales performance (growing by around 33 % over last year). The Commercial Vehicles Business Unit (CVBU) is continuing to take the lead in shaping the Indian CV industry on the back of a slew of new product launches across various segments, including full electric buses. We have grown our market share across various segments in recent times with our new Ultra range of light and intermediate CVs, including the Ace Gold, extended range of Signa and Prima trucks as well as extension of the range of offerings with the popular Winger platform and Magna buses.
We are also undertaking efforts to forge robust relationships with our customers and key stakeholders such as channel partners, financiers and body builders. Such initiatives will continue to complement our efforts to strengthen our product portfolio. Further, our value-added services under the Sampoorna Seva umbrella (a complete protection package) offer a total peace of mind to our customers. As a process, Tata Motors is continuously assessing the market and focussing on enhancing its value proposition and total cost of ownership for its customers, while bolstering its revenue potential.
The automotive industry is increasingly heading towards digitalisation – what’s your take?
The automotive industry is undergoing a digital transformation and it is only a matter of time before everything will be connected. It’s all about leveraging connectivity and digital technology available to make things much easier. For example, when a transporter is looking at committing a certain delivery to a customer at a particular point of time, you can track whether the cargo has left the particular place or not, and when it supposed to be delivered to the desired destination – everybody in contemporary times want this connectivity information because it’s a highly competitive marketplace, where everyone is looking to enhance efficiency. In order to improve efficiency, you need a lot of data from all that is happening to optimise every cycle so that you can ensure the costs are lower and you are more competitive in the market.
Some years back, we were behind technology available globally, but today we are catching up fast – we are moving to BS VI which is equivalent to Euro 6. Digital technology available in the US and Europe is also available in India, although the duty cycle is different in India. As far as India is concerned, it is about customising it for Indian technology, operations and infrastructure. India is well placed to take advantage of its decent digital literacy.
Electric vehicles are talked about as the next big thing as far as alternate fuel vehicles in India are concerned – what is your take on electric vehicle adoption in India?
Tata Motors strongly supports the initiatives undertaken by the government to drive electric vehicle penetration in India, as it marks a shift towards zero emission transportation in India. We strongly believe that the large-scale adoption of EVs can be a reality in India if all industry stakeholders, including the government agencies focus on initiating concrete and time-bound actions.
It has to be understood that the Indian EV market is still at a nascent stage. The country’s FAME II scheme will trigger demand creation, infrastructure and ecosystem development and this would be the key towards making a positive impact towards catalysing demand and achieving the set targets. There are a number of factors that suggest that EVs are the best bet for India. Battery prices are dropping sharply in global markets and internal combustion engine costs are progressively going up. Such a scenario is rapidly reducing the viability gap for EVs. It is critical that we focus on localisation of key EV components that will further drive the EV costs down, making them increasingly accessible.
Further, the shared and public transport segments are expected to spur the adoption of EVs. Given the government’s thrust to deploy electric buses in key cities, Tata Motors believes that the penetration of electric buses would increase significantly over the coming years. In addition, the last mile connectivity across cities that includes public and goods transport is expected to witness EV penetration.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua
PHOTO: Tata Motors