VECV's strategy of combining state-of-the-art technology with frugal engineering has paid off handsomely in the form of top-class trucks and engines, opines Bhargav TS.
Eicher Motors unveiled its new generation Pro Series of truck and bus range at Pithampur near Indore recently. VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV) is a 50-50 joint venture between the Volvo Group and Eicher Motors Limited, which is in operation since July 2008, and has revamped the entire product range including engines. The 11 new products are the result of joint efforts over the last five years. The new trucks and buses get a new Pegasus-based front styling across the product family, and the vehicles are a quantum leap in each and every aspect, from exterior design to engine technology to cabin features.
"In the last five years, we have built the foundation for a trucking company to the right stage and now we are ready to unleash our full new series of trucks and buses, what we call it as the Pro Series. These products deliver best-in-class fuel efficiency, better uptime, and overall lifetime profitability and are supported by professional sales and service network. In the heavy-duty segment in particular, where India was more amateurish, where the customers were used to a product and a service which was not so good, so we want to take it to a stage where it is totally professional," said Siddhartha Lal, Managing Director and CEO, Eicher Motors.
In the Pro Series, there will be four categories of trucks covering five to 49 tonne gross vehicle weight (GVW) range. These include Pro1000 for 5-14 tonne GVW light and medium trucks, Pro3000 catering to 9-14 tonne GVW medium duty trucks, Pro6000 selling 16-40 tonne GVW heavy trucks, tippers and trailers, and Pro 8000 series that would comprise 25-49 tonne GVW slight premium heavy trucks, tippers and trailers. The new trucks would be powered by new generation engines adapted from the Volvo Group with power ranging from 180-280 hp.
For the light-duty segments, Eicher has developed a new 4-cylinder VEDX 5 engine that powers the Pro1000-3000 series. The new block has 4-valves per cylinder, capable of producing up to 210 bhp.
The Eicher Skyline Pro buses have now been developed on a completely new platform to offer a higher number of seats and comfort across preferred applications like school and staff buses. These buses are manufactured at the company's integrated bus manufacturing facility, which is equipped with a robotised painting process. The company has an annual capacity to manufacture 7,500 fully built buses and can be expand to 15,000 buses annually.
Elaborating on the activities of Volvo in India and the Asian region, Joachim Rosenberg, Executive Vice-President, Volvo Group Trucks said, "Today Eicher is considered as the 5th brand in the competitive portfolio of Volvo Group brands. It is an integral part of the Volvo Group's strategy to expand in Asia and other growth markets. With the launch of the Pro Series of trucks by Eicher, our strategy in Asia gets further strengthened. With the improvement in infrastructure and road network in India, there is a requirement of more effective transport chains. The new Pro Series of trucks being revealed today is in a prime position to meet these requirements"
On the development of the Pro Series, Rajinder Sachdeva, Senior Vice President, Technology, VECV, said, "For developing these new 11 products around 30 lakh engineering hours were engaged, tested over 77 lakh km, over 50,000 hours of engine test development and 3,200 new sub-assemblies are developed. And for the first time in India, we have used ERODIP Technology in our paint shop, which results in corrosion resistance of more than 1200 hours." While continuing to address the large-sized value segment, the new range marks the entry of the Eicher brand into the emerging premium segment that seeks higher power and torque combination as well as greater degree of refinement and sophistication. Eicher currently has a market share of close to five per cent in the heavy-duty truck range (25-49 tonne) and 13.8 per cent (2013-domestic sales YTD) in their entire range (5-49 tonne) in the segment. Eicher signalled that in the next three years it plans to double its current market share in the heavy-duty segment. The joint venture has invested around Rs 1,800 crore in new projects, capacity expansion, and modernisation of facilities as well as products.
It will invest another Rs 700 crore by the end of 2014 to meet the requirement of on-going projects such as engine plant, bus-body plant, and also for capacity expansion beyond 5,500 units a month to prepare for 2015 requirements. According to VECV, the company has doubled its sales volumes in the last five years, when it started operations.
It recorded sales of 23,775 units that year; in 2012, it sold a total of 48,262 units. Its market share from 7.8 per cent in 2008 has risen to 13.8 per cent in 2013.
The company now exports to Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and African states like Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya and in the Middle East. With this new range, the company plans to penetrate Southeast Asian markets like
Indonesia in the coming years.
Talking to: Rajesh MittalSenior VP & Head - Operations, VECV
About 3200 new components have been developed for the Pro Series trucks. Can you tell us details about vendor development?
If you're going for a new cab or new engine, it is necessary to develop a lot of new products. So when we thought of revamping our entire truck range the product development took place simultaneously. For trucks, majority of the suppliers are same, but for the engines we have a new set of suppliers. Since we have adopted the Volvo technology it requires lot of global purchasing and now most of our vendors are similar to Volvo Group.
How different are the new engines compared to the existing medium-duty engines?
Our engine was one generation old, so we required new technology engine. We were using two-valve engines, now in the same area we have introduced four-valve engine, which gives more power and better efficiency. Basic engine capacity of the 4-cylinder block has been increased from 3.3 litres to 3.8 litres, thus increasing power from 115 to 140 bhp. Since Volvo is our partner now, they wanted to produce their engines at low cost, so we took that platform and decided to produce it here at same quality but at a lesser cost. Once we did that, we gained confidence and decided to convert our light-duty engine to the same technology by having our own design and Volvo's technology.
Will you be using the engines manufactured at VE Powertrain?
Yes. 30 per cent of the engines manufactured in VEPT will be utilised by Eicher Motors especially for the heavy-duty segment and rest will be exported to Volvo group.
How did the combination of Volvo's technology and Eicher's strength in frugal engineering take place?
Volvo encouraged us to localise lot of engineering in Pithampur in their guidance. Now we have been able to put the right systems and processes in place, which are delivering phenomenal results. The impact of this synergy has resulted in increasingly visible in the products, distribution, and quality and customer satisfaction. Finally it helps Volvo Group to reduce costs by sourcing components locally and help Eicher to access Volvo's latest technology.