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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | We have made considerable investments to achieve Vision Zero
We have made considerable investments to achieve Vision Zero
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Continental recently observed the groundbreaking ceremony of its greenfield powertrain Plant in Talegaon, Pune. APF’s Neellohit Banerjee caught up with Prashanth Doreswamy, Market Head, Continental India and, Managing Director, Continental Automotive India after the press conference. In this tête-à-tête, Prashanth Doreswamy opens up about Continental’s future investment plans, its contribution toward reducing road fatalities, their efforts to provide affordable safety solutions, its commitment toward the India market and much more.
We know that Continental has been pushing for ‘Vision Zero’, i.e a world with zero accidents. Can you start by telling us what are the steps that Continental is taking towards achieving this particular idea?
You know that Continental is into providing safe, clean, connected, intelligent and affordable solutions for the mobility space. So, as a part of safety, we have a vision called ‘Vision Zero’ – zero fatalities, zero accidents, zero injuries. As a part of this, we have a series of products which are under chassis and safety, which looks after the vehicle safety. If I have to say, it starts from vehicle dynamics, BU, which is ABS and also the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems. We were almost the first to enter into India with the ABS technology. Back in 2016, we installed an assembly line in Gurugram with 1.2 million capacity to produce ABS and ESC systems. In early 2018, we also did the reverse integration in terms of localising the ECUs for the ESCs, and in November last year we added two more lines with an additional capacity of 1.2 million; that’s taking us to a total of 2.4 million, for ABS and ESC production. This is how we continue to grow in terms of offering latest technology products to our customers. Also, with the uptake of airbags increasing day by day, we had a line installed in Bengaluru for producing airbag control units, and added an additional line capacity to increase the capacity in the airbag side as well. Also third is part of passive safety and sensorics segment, and with the increase in ABS we also have increasing demands in terms of wheel speed sensors, which is taken care at the Manesar facility. We have added enough capacity to take care of this growth on the wheel speed sensors. So these are some of the considerable investments we have made in the last couple of years to achieve ‘Vision Zero’. And with the market shaping up, though today it is not mandatory for the ESC, we already produce ESCs here in India and are ready with the product. We do supply to some of the OEMs here and our products are getting fitted into cars and getting exported to other advanced countries as well. Also, we do deal in exports to some other countries. We are ready with the ESC and see a traction in the market. Though there is no mandate for the introduction of ESC but we expect that to be happening sometime in 2022. With consumers’ preferences growing and people getting more awareness on the safety side, we already see a pickup in the ESC implemetation.
Can you tell us about your investment plans in the future with regards to passenger vehicles, two-wheelers and commercial vehicles?
Sometime in last August, when the executive board member of Continental Frank Jourdan was here, we made an announcement over the next two-year period. We will be investing high double-digit million euros over the next two years. Also, we will have the employee’s count rise from 8,000 to 10,000 by 2020. So we are on the path of these investments and these investments are going toward enhancing the capacities in the existing plants for the existing products and adding additional capacities for new products in the existing plant. The third part is expansion, what you see in the greenfield plant here in Pune for powertrain as well as our interior products, and also for growth on the tech centre side. These are some of the growth areas but it will be very difficult for us to put a number to each of these segments. This is how we continue to review the market and will make appropriate judgement when time comes. But certainly we are committed towards the India market and see a growth coming in. So far we have made considerable investments in the last 10 years, will continue to invest and strongly believe in the India market, the Indian economy and also in the automotive market.
How is the electromobility space in India and where do you see it going in the future? How do you intend to tap that market?
It is very difficult and it’s a challenge for suppliers including OEMs. But we, at Continental, believe that by 2030 it will be globally about 30 per cent electrified vehicles and 100 per cent AV. Still, about 30 per cent of some sort of electrification could be mild hybrid, partial hybrid or full hybrid and 40 per cent still about internal combustion engines. When it comes to India as a market, we make about 4 million passenger cars and India is a unique market. More than 50 per cent of the cars produced are B or B+ segment cars, and it’s a very value-driven market. At this point of time, if you try to electrify these cars, it is going to be much more expensive and we may not have consumers ready to buy these cars. So from that perspective, it’s a challenge. Certainly something should happen in terms of innovation, for bringing down the cost and slowly electrification will pick up when it comes to passenger vehicles. Having said that, we see a lot of traction picking up on the commercial vehicles in terms of public transport and triwheelers, and these are the best markets to tap before we get to passenger cars. Also with electronics increasing in vehicles and the way in which the mobility is moving, Continental globally as a technology company, has all those right products available. So we will certainly bring in those products to make our customers successful and making it affordable. We strongly we believe in ‘In the market, for the market’.
BS VI norms are knocking at the door. So how is Continental preparing for environmental sustainability?
We already have the products which are applied in the other parts of the world in advanced countries, which they have already migrated. I am including the RDE which is real-time drive emission requirements. So from the product perspective, we have them readily available with us. The challenge is to localise and also make it affordable and then supply. Keeping that in mind, we are making investment in the new greenfield facility so that we can make it more affordable. When it comes to readiness, we have products across the drivetrain business, starting from EFI systems for two-wheelers, four-wheelers, gasoline, diesel and sensors, which include knock sensors, high-temperature sensors and also the after-exhaust, i.e the treatment. This includes catalytic filters, diesel product-led filters, gasoline filters, etc. All these products are being readied for the Indian market, which you will see getting launched sometime in early 2020.
Continental has announced two plants in the span of less than a month. What is next on the table?
It is not just a part of the expansion strategy. We will expand from the existing capacities, but we are also bringing in a lot of new products, which are not manufactured here today, for instance knock sensors which are going to be a critical part of Euro 6. For two-wheelers, today most them are running on the carburated technology. By 2020, every two-wheeler will migrate to EFI technology, which is also a new product, in addition to the fuel supply units.
Lastly, do you intend to use India as an R&D hub to meet the global requirements?
Certainly. India has been a hub for availability of good quality R&D engineers. In Bengaluru, we have a tech centre and today we have an excess of 3,000 people. When I said we will be growing from 8,000 to 10,000, the major portion will be coming from the tech centre. The current tech centre is very critical among R&D centres globally, supporting many of the latest developments such as automated driving, vehicle dynamics, passive safety and vehicle interiors.
Continental Automotive India
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