Make in India finds a smooth ride in auto industry

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India call has probably found more takers in the auto industry than any other, and perhaps accomplished in the mission’s truest sense — targeting global markets. Bajaj Auto, TVS Motor Company, Eicher Motors, Daimler, Volvo and General Motors have made India a production base for making vehicles and engines exclusively for the export markets.

Besides the developing markets of Africa, Latin America, Asia and Middle East, products from their stables are also exported to developed markets of Europe and Japan.

Pune-based Bajaj Auto makes the BM 125X and the BM 150X which is styled on the commuter bike Boxer with an added styling of raised mudguards giving it an off-road vehicle look.

While these models are sold in the African markets, helping the company become the largest-selling two-wheeler brand in the continent, they are not available in India.

TVS Motor Company, India’s fourth largest two-wheeler maker, exports eight scooters and motorcycles from India to Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Europe. None of these low-cost models — aligned with the older generation Euro-III (equivalent to BS-III) emission standard —  such as Rockz, ZT 125, HLX 125 and Neo is retailed in India.

German commercial vehicle giant Daimler AG has taken Make in India a step further. Its subsidiary Daimler India Commercial Vehicle produces products under four different brands in India. However only one brand, Bharat Benz, is sold in India while three, Mercedes-Benz (trucks), Fuso and Freightliner, are exported. The India plant in Oragadam near Chennai is the only manufacturing base for Daimler in the world producing four brands and engines.

Swedish commercial vehicle maker Volvo produces the UD range (formerly Nissan Diesel) of heavy and medium duty trucks at Pithampur, Madhya Pradesh. The UD brand of trucks is yet to be launched in India though UD buses have been delivered to the first buyers in India and shall be introduced on the roads shortly.

But that is not the only exclusivity associated with Volvo. The truck and bus maker sources high grade diesel engines from Eicher Motors, the maker of Royal Enfield bikes, to be later fitted on medium duty trucks sold in Europe.

Vinod Agarwal, managing director and CEO, VE Commercial Vehicles, said, “The Pithampur plant in Madhya Pradesh is the only plant in the world that makes BS-VI engines for Volvo’s medium duty trucks. These engines are of 5 and 8 litre class. Volvo used to buy (engines) from Deutz but when they shifted to BS-VI, they shifted to India.”

Over the years, India has strengthened its back end set up in areas of technology and product development platforms using talent from local pools. A number of automotive companies have set up product and technology development centres that have graduated from making India-specific changes to developing India-specific products.

Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Daimler, Renault, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen are some of the companies that have developed technology centres in India.