A couple of years ago, Siddhartha Lal had said his company would unleash a ‘huge wave’ in trucks towards end-2013 which would be visible technology in new cabins and vehicle platforms.

On Monday, the Managing Director and CEO of Eicher Motors was part of an event which saw the unveiling of 11 trucks and buses. The Pro Series, as the new range will be called, comprises products in the five to 49 tonne space.

All this has been made possible thanks to the joint venture with Volvo, VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV), which has created a manufacturing powerhouse at the Pithampur plant near Indore. Nearly 80 per cent of the strategic plans are complete and Rs 1,800 crore has been invested so far. The facility is also a medium duty engine hub for Volvo worldwide.

Technology

According to Joachim Rosenberg, Executive Vice-President, Volvo Group Trucks, the Swedish maker has its strengths in technology which have taken the joint venture business to a “completely new level”. The processes have also played a key role in laying a strong base.

Some critical numbers only highlight the extent of hard work that went into making the new product range a reality. Over three million engineering hours, 77 lakh km of testing, 3,200 new parts/sub-assemblies and over 50,000 hours of engine test development were part of this important journey.

Vinod Aggarwal, CEO of VECV, said the four pillars of the joint venture were quality systems, revamping/modernising, Volvo’s processes, products, sales & service and, finally, the combination of its top-class technology with Eicher’s strength in frugal engineering.

Customer focus

“The foundation is top-class and we are ready to unleash a new level of professionalism going forward in the trucking industry. From our point of view, more than the hardware, it is the promise that is more important which includes (the promise of) peace of mind and support the user does not get today,” Lal said.

According to him, transporters have a rough deal and do not get proper support from vehicle makers. “There has been a duopoly which has for decades taken the customer for granted. The time has come to change heavy duty trucking,” he added.

Future of Indian trucking

The Go Pro tagline for Eicher pretty much reinforces the company’s commitment to professionalism. As Lal said, trucking is the lifeline for many transporters and it is only professionalism that leads to productivity improvements and prosperity. “We are going to be the future of Indian trucking,” he said.

VECV, Lal added, wanted to become the top truck maker from the viewpoint of a business model which includes top-class processes, technology and service. “It is not about price but value. We are well placed to shake the market and everyone is a decade behind us,” he said.

Rosenberg reiterated that Volvo was “very pleased” with the joint venture though the Indian market was “somewhat troublesome” at this point in time. Lal admitted the slowdown was a cause for concern but VECV has a strong balance sheet with surplus cash “which helps us invest in these hard times”.

Philiipe Divry, Senior VP, Trucks Joint Venture India, said the commercial vehicle industry was cyclical in nature which meant better times were ahead. It is also during a downturn that market operators become aware of the need for modernisation, he added.

murali.gopalan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 2, 2013)
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