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Polaris to spread ATV reach in India

Rutam Vora | Updated on July 12, 2018 Published on July 12, 2018

Pankaj Dubey   -  BUSINESS LINE

Company will steer clear of electric route for now

In its product portfolio back home in the US, Polaris Industries has a four-wheeled electric vehicle under the GEM brand. It comes in handy for end-users like hotels and educational institutions as well as personal transport.

GEM, incidentally, stands for Global Electric Motorcars and was acquired by Polaris in 2011. Prior to this, it was in the portfolio of Chrysler.

One would think that it would be a good fit for India except that Polarisis not in a tearing hurry to have it as part of the country’s electrification drive. On the contrary, it would rather adopt a wait-and-watch strategy before bringing GEM to this part of the world.

Pankaj Dubey, MD and Country Head, Polaris India, believes it is important to have infrastructure like charging stations in place first before any such move is contemplated. “Moreover, we would like our existing business in India to realise its full potential before opening up another front,” he says.

Apart from ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), Polaris also owns the Indian motorcycle brand and the priority now is to boost their presence before getting into the e-mobility arena. As Dubey adds, there is still a lot of uncertainty here with “everybody making announcements but no one sure what the market reaction will be”.

The Centre is keen on pushing for this initiative but what began as a super-ambitious goal of 100 per cent electrification for the automotive industry by 2030 has now been set aside. Despite this, policymakers are determined to push on e-mobility in a big way.

“When we feel this is viable for India, we will introduce EVs. The product is already there but we want stability in policy first,” says Dubey. He cites the example of China, which has “raced ahead” and is attracting some of the biggest automotive brands to join the e-mobility drive, with the latest being Tesla Motors.

For now, Polaris India has its hands full with ATVs that are being used by the Army and state police as well as the tourism and forest departments. On Dubey’s radar are other potential categories such as telecom and electrical transmission where ATVs can help access remote hilly areas.

Adventure sports is yet another interesting area for the future though Polaris’ top priority now is to extend the reach of ATVs through creation of ‘experience zones’. The idea is to increase their number nearly three times to 200 over the next two years.

“It has taken us about five years to reach the present levels of 80 but we now want to increase the pace as more and more people want to experience these vehicles,” says Dubey.

Quite unlike cars and two-wheelers, ATVs are still to make a big splash in India and this is where experience zones will help customers understand them better and, hopefully, use them for their businesses or in extreme off-road conditions.

“Internationally, Polaris is successful through adventure zones and adventure activities which are now gaining popularity in India too. With increased access to our vehicles, the off-road adventure sports segment has the potential to grow really fast,” says Dubey.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Indian motorcycle is also doing well even while there have been some concerns lately on tariff levels on motorcycles imported from the US. The debate has largely centred around Harley Davidson but this could apply to brands like Indian too. “There are concerns but nothing serious has happened so far,” says Dubey.

Published on July 12, 2018
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