Sondhi said the recovery of the automotive industry is so vital for the revival of the overall economy
The outbreak of COVID-19 has knocked the stuffing out of the Indian automotive industry – the market environment over the last couple of months has been exceedingly challenging for OEMs and component makers alike. Commercial vehicle bellwether Ashok Leyland is cognisant of the unfavourable market conditions and believes that a well-calibrated and safer lockdown-exit roadmap would be the way forward. “These are unprecedented times and the economy has been severely hit. Clearly, the need of the hour is for the government as well as the automotive industry to work even more closely than probably ever before to help restore the automotive industry back on its feet since the recovery of the industry is so vital for the revival of the overall economy. A well-thought-out lockdown-exit approach can be adopted giving due considerations to the geographical spread of COVID-19 in the country,” said Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director & CEO, Ashok Leyland Limited.
The Ashok Leyland CEO lauded the government’s move for coming to the rescue of the ailing and vulnerable Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector with a special economic package aimed at bailing out the highly stressed sector. “The announcement of the special economic bailout package by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will help lift market sentiments all around. The package announced for MSMEs was just what the doctor ordered as they serve as the backbone of the Indian auto industry and form a key element of the product supply chain. Every effort must be undertaken to ensure all pending payments to MSMEs are cleared immediately by various government departments and public sector undertakings (PSUs),” he said.
However, Sondhi, who was appointed as CEO & Managing Director at Ashok Leyland in December 2019, conceded that challenges will remain concerning adequate manpower at plants. “Supply chains need to be restarted and hordes of migrant labourers have returned to their native place of stay. These migrant workers need to return to work and more importantly, they have to adhere to social distancing norms and operate at various plants in a systematic and safe manner,” he pointed out.
The Ashok Leyland top official feels that there is much more the government can do for the automotive industry. “The government can carry out some interventions such as accelerating infrastructure spending of Rs 1.7 lakh crore (already allocated in the budget), which would provide immediate impetus to the economy, especially to the commercial vehicle (CV) industry. Further, the government can initiate an incentivised vehicle scrappage policy to trigger new purchases. Besides the above, special package will be needed for state transport undertakings (STUs) and private bus operators to buy buses,” he stated.