Early June, the automotive media fraternity was invited for a unique “knowledge sharing” session at the Mahindra headquarters in Mumbai; a session that attempted to demystify the much-debated Bharat Stage VI emission norms. Less than nine months to go for the nationwide rollout of the stringent regulations, the auto major announced its readiness to launch BS VI-ready products much ahead of the deadline set by the government.
In fact, almost the entire industry – OEMs and suppliers alike – has corroborated its readiness. Having said that, how the transition takes place at every level of the automotive value chain is still work in progress, say experts. Moreover, there are serious concerns about estimating the exact demand for BS VI vehicles, as much it is a concern with inventory planning to sell-off the entire lot of BS IV vehicles by March 31, 2020.
The biggest accomplishment for the industry in this whole exercise has been in its meticulous planning and execution, despite the initial brouhaha about the myriad challenges it possessed. Back in 2016, the industry was faced with tremendous pressure on time, cost and most importantly, availability of technology.
Manufacturers in the country had the option of importing technology and components to ensure they met the time deadlines, but that approach would have made the products unviable from a cost perspective. Sure enough, OEMs worked with local Indian suppliers, innovated, created intellectual property in the process, designed, developed and have manufactured in the country. This is a serious endorsement of the industry’s ingenuity and capability in technology development and value creation.
On the other hand, NITI Aayog’s recent directive to two- and three-wheeler manufacturers to come up with concrete plans towards their transition to electric mobility by 2023 for three-wheelers and 2025 for two-wheelers – that too in just a fortnight – has been met with stiff resistance from several industry quarters. The government think tank is pushing for 100 % EVs by completely banning two-wheelers up to 150 cc that are powered by IC engines.
At a time when the industry is reeling under severe stress, with passenger vehicle sales in May 2019 slumping 20.55 % – recording the sharpest ever fall in the last 18 years – amidst weak consumer demand, this demand from the government has come as a rude shock to the industry. Being ready for a transition of this magnitude calls for adequate planning on products and technology, as well as the need to build an ecosystem that can serve and address the needs of every relevant stakeholder.
DEEPANGSHU DEV SARMAH
New Delhi, July 2019