The tiny shacks and dusty dhabas along the country’s highways have provided Daimler the kind of fuel that rigorous factory testing cannot give.
With just a few months to go for the big launch, the German truck maker got a pulse of its potential market as a convoy of six BharatBenz light and heavy duty trucks traversed 8,000 km along the Golden Quadrilateral, across 22 cities – reaching out to transporters, drivers and mechanics.
The 73-day ‘Power Yatra’ began in mid-April from Chennai, across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharastra, Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi, UP, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, before ending at Daimler India Commercial Vehicles’ plant in Oragadam, Chennai.
Daimler’s men chatted up with over 3,000 truck drivers over parathas, and with small-time mechanics operating “under trees”. They also visited the more organised transport nagars – which are naturally evolved locations housing everything to do with the trucking community – from truck body builders and spare part retailers to garage owners and tinkers.
The whole experience was humbling, says Mr V.R.V. Sriprasad, Vice-President - Marketing and Sales. And there were valuable lessons to be picked up.
The biggest takeaway was this: All features built into a product have to be explained to the customer as well as given enough training. One cannot presume that the truck driver can figure it out all by himself.
“For instance, our engine braking system is designed in such a way that drivers do not have to come hard on the brakes to stop the vehicle. Our drivers are so used to jamming the brakes hard out of habit. Also, when you start your vehicle after it was stopped for some reason, there is no need to accelerate. The vehicle moves if the clutch is released. But these features have to be explained properly,” says Mr Sriprasad.
Daimler plans to put in place at least one master driver at every dealership to train and hand-hold truck drivers.
The company also learnt that the roof luggage carrier on the cabin is a must for local drivers and cannot be an optional feature.
“There were other product and process-related recommendations on how to reach out to the market which we will incorporate as we go by,” says Mr Sriprasad.
Plans variants of CVs
Daimler India Commercial Vehicles plans to roll out six variants by this year.
The first to hit the road will be the 25-tonner right truck in September, followed by the 25-tonne construction tipper and the 31-tonner.
The 9-tonne and 12-tonne trucks will also be launched this year, said Mr Sriprasad.
By December, Daimler hopes to roll out 1,500-2,000 vehicles.
(The company had earlier promised to launch 17 high-performance trucks in the 7-49 tonnes range in 18 months.)
At the time of launch, the company expects to have 25 dealers. The network will be expanded to 70 by the year-end.
The company expects its Oragadam facility to ramp up to 36,000 units by 2015, on a single shift which can be expanded up to 70,000. By 2018-2020, Daimler hopes to produce one lakh trucks from the plant.