Entire line of traditional three and four wheelers to be revamped

Our Bureau

Pune, Sept. 30

Revamp of the existing line of production of the three and four wheelers within the next nine months, entry into the bus segment with MAN AG in 2007 and launch of a four-wheeler in the third quarter of the current year are the plans chalked out for the current year by the Pune-based Force Motors, formerly known as Bajaj Tempo Ltd.

Talking to presspersons, Mr Abhay Firodia, Chairman and Managing Director, Force Motors, said the entire line of traditional three and four wheelers, which included Trax, Minidor and tractors, would be ramped up by using the latest in technology and they would be rolled out with newer engines, transmissions etc.

He pointed out that the three-wheeler market had gone down and "this had brought in the necessity for the revamping of traditional lines and (we) would be coming into the market with what the customer wants," he said.

He said during the year ended March 2006, the shift in the three-wheeler vehicles market had become more obvious. Both in the passenger and load carrier usage, the market shifted to the lower capacity vehicles due to increased cost of fuel and operations for the customer. Introduction of smaller versions of four-wheeler load carriers had also resulted in the market shrinking in the three-wheeler segment. These changes had affected its performance in the three wheeler vehicles field.

MAN AG tie-up

Mr Firodia commenting on the tie-up with MAN AG of Germany for the heavy commercial vehicle said the company would be going into the market with a full range of commercial vehicles ranging from 16-49 horsepower. The commercial production would be at Pithanpur in Madhya Pradesh.

He said the initial product line up, with a variety of applications, from tippers, dumpers, trailers, rigids and fire engines, will all carry the MAN logo. The plant would go into production within the next six months. Initial sales are also planned.

He said that to implement the joint venture project, a subsidiary company, MAN Force Trucks Pvt Ltd, has been registered. And the company is in the process of transferring all assets, liabilities, for the implementation of the HCV project to the subsidiary company.

As per the agreed arrangement, MAN would hold 30 per cent of the equity of the subsidiary company and the remaining would be held by Force Motors. This subsidiary company would be managed by a board of directors consisting of nine directors, six representing the company and three nominees of MAN.

Mr Firodia said about 25 dealers have been appointed for the sales of the HCV and would be in place within the next three months. The company, which showcased the HCV at the Hannover Exhibition recently, would be exporting it.

He said the intention was to touch a 50 per cent export mark; MAN channels are expected to be used for export. The focus was to have about 90 per cent localisation content and noted that exports would begin next fiscal. Force Motors and MAN have also announced a second joint venture for buses.

Mr Firodia looking at the performance of the company said the company has been in a transition period and added that he did not expect much growth in the current year. The overall performance of the company for the year ended March 2006 had been marginally better than the previous year, but continued to be affected by the industrial relations issue at its Akurdi plant in Pune. He said that concentrating solely on the HCV project had also affected business. But he said that he believed that the new product being offered and HCV going on stream would usher in better times for the company.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 1, 2006)
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