Interview: Dr Ajit Kumar Jindal, Head of Technology, Commercial Vehicle, Tata Motors

Interview: Dr Ajit Kumar Jindal, Head of Technology, Commercial Vehicle, Tata Motors

Despite the Indian commercial vehicle market falling into a downward spiral – only 53,533 CVs were sold in October, compared with sales of 66,722 vehicles in the same month a year ago – Dr Ajit Kumar Jindal, head of commercial vehicle technology at Tata Motors remains upbeat.

“The commercial vehicle industry is, of course, passing through a very tough challenge,” Jindal commented. “But we believe that the basic economic indicators are still very strong. It’s only because of non-economic reasons that the market has gone into a phase of degeneration. Once the other conditions become stable then the market has got a huge potential to grow.”

But what of the future for Tata’s commercial vehicle division? In this recent interview, Jindal talks about the OEM’s plans and view of the Indian market going forward.

What do you think will power the future commercial vehicles in India?

Dr Ajit Kumar Jindal, Head of Technology, Commercial Vehicle, Tata Motors
Dr Ajit Kumar Jindal,
Head of Technology, Commercial Vehicle,
Tata Motors

We already have a CNG vehicle on almost every platform and, as probably you know, in some parts of the country like Delhi, it is mandated that some commercial vehicles and buses have to be CNG. In Delhi, Tata have the largest fleet of public transport buses running on CNG. I think it is possibly the second largest CNG bus fleet in the world.

We have also developed both series hybrid as well as parallel hybrid technology: the series hybrid vehicles was developed for one of the European customers in Spain and, of course, we are already working on making this technology more cost effective to make it more viable for the domestic operators of the public transport buses.

Though as of now the momentum on LNG is not that great – because of future energy security – the Indian government is placing a lot of emphasis on it. In short, this is likely to be a future fuel so we are also working on bringing this technology into the country.

In Europe there have been numerous campaigns and developments around making commercial vehicles safer for cyclists. Are there any specific safety issues that Tata is looking to resolve in India?
We are very much attuned to the various market trends which are happening towards improving commercial vehicle safety. For example, all of our vehicles have ABS as an option. As of now there’s no mandate per se on ABS, but we are working to bring it in as a standard fitment through various suppliers, and by making customers more aware of the safety concern. We are also looking at incorporating technologies like ESP, advanced braking systems and adaptive cruise control. All of these technologies have been tested and we are now looking for the right opportunity to introduce them.

Which emerging markets do you think will be the most important for Tata commercial vehicles in the next ten years?
We are very actively looking at markets like Brazil and Russia. We are present in Russia and Ukraine – the old CIS countries – particularly in the bus and light truck markets, and now we are looking at heavy duty. We are also now expanding into places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia. We very recently launched our pickups and passenger vehicles in Australia, and in Indonesia we launched our passenger products and will very soon be launching our commercial vehicle products.

Tata CNG bus

Automated manual transmission is currently regarded as the next transmission shift for Indian commercial CVs – is this going to be the case at Tata?
Yes, we are already in the process of developing AMT with partners and very soon will be able to launch in the Indian market. I think a shift from manual will happen, but it will be gradual: customers need to be taught of the advantages and what can be achieved.

There has been increasing competition from the likes of Ashok Leyland and Mahindra in the mini truck segment – an area that Tata has dominated with its Ace line. Do you see that as a threat at Tata?
I don’t think we have lost any market share because of the introduction of these competitor vehicles. Obviously, at one point we had 100% market share, which you can’t really maintain in a competitive environment. Today we hold a very healthy market share in this segment and have a lot of updates and new developments on these platforms, so we are very confident of maintaining our market leadership.

In general, commercial vehicles in India are expected to see an increase in power density over the next five years. Do you think that the Indian infrastructure is ready for this?
This shift to higher power density vehicles was expected maybe half a decade ago, but it has not happened to the extent that was expected. There has been a shift from, say, a low power of 140, 160, to 180 and it is slowly inching towards around 230. There are some segments in which even high powers have already been introduced and they are getting accepted, but what we see is the infrastructure growth not living up to expectations.­

Rachael Hogg

This article was first published in the Q4 2013 issue of Automotive World Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue

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