Christina Hallin: ‘The premium truck segment in India is small but shows potential’

by Kiran Bajad 16 Oct 2018


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The Vice-President of the Bangalore-based Volvo Trucks — Market India reveals plans to introduce new models, bring in the fuel-saving I-Shift automated manual transmission system and also electronic braking later this year, expand into the construction and long-haul truck segments, along with ensuring quality after sales service .

What is Volvo Trucks’ current business plan and the strategies being employing in a competitive marketplace like India?
Volvo Trucks has been in India for more than 20 years. At present, we operate our business with our joint venture partner VECV (Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles). We are active in the premium European segment, particularly in mining where we have approximately 80 percent market share; last year we sold approximately 1,200 vehicles.

We see potential to grow our business by using the good image and reputation we have in mining to expand into new areas like construction and long-haul. We have already made some headway in construction with some key customers, who have bagged some large projects. The premium truck segment in India is small but shows potential. Customers in this segment generally want a truck that is durable, fuel efficient and offers the best TCO (total cost of ownership).

What is the potential for Volvo Trucks in the premium truck segment in the mid-term?
The premium segment in India is about 1,500 units annually. We offer the Volvo FMX and Volvo FM models in India. The Volvo FMX 8X4 is intended for mining operations while the FM 6x4 is fit for heavy haulage applications. We would also soon be introducing newer models that are specifically designed keeping Indian road construction in mind.

Volvo Trucks claims it has an 80 percent share of the mining truck market in India

In India, there is still a focus on the sticker price but increasingly we are seeing that haulage operators are concerned with the total cost of a vehicle over its entire lifecycle. This mindset shift creates a demand for European brands and their fuel-efficient, high-quality products with long lifecycles.

Premium trucks are largely used for special applications and in extreme conditions. This also means demanding customers, which calls for solid after sales support from OEMs. How is Volvo Trucks placed in this area?
We know that when a customer’s truck stands still, so does their business. The promise of uptime through top-line service delivered by trained technicians and genuine Volvo parts is what makes us competitive in this market. We are continuously investing in the training of our technicians and also provide support to our customers when and where they need it the most. For our coal industry customers, for instance, we have set up workshops onsite to support them around the clock.  In addition to workshop services, we also offer driver development, fuel advice and fleet management services like Dynafleet that help reduce costs and increase productivity.

Some local and a few global CV OEMs are eyeing the premium truck segment? How are you taking on the competition?
The premium truck segment in India is dominated by European brands. Volvo Trucks’ ambition to be the customer’s best business partner is what sets us apart in this market. We work towards fulfilling this promise through innovation, our core values and focus on customer satisfaction.

If we start with innovation, Volvo Trucks is continuously introducing technologies that set a new benchmark for the Indian truck industry. This includes our I-Shift automatic gearbox and the electronic braking system which we will introduce later this year to enable more safety features on our trucks.

Safety, a word that has become synonymous with the Volvo brand, is at the heart of everything that we do. A core value since the very beginning, Volvo’s commitment to safety has enabled the development of a number of innovations, including the three-point seatbelt which has saved more lives in traffic than any other technical feature.

In 2017, Volvo Trucks sold around 1,200 vehicles in India

Satisfied and productive customers are at the heart of our business. Trucks constitute our main offering, but we also provide workshop services delivered through a network of 169 touchpoints [24 VSPC + 145 Site Support].

Our workshop services are what ensure that our customers’ operations never come to a standstill. In addition, we also offer fuel advice and fleet management services which help bring down costs and improve productivity. 

We have an assembly plant in Hosakote, near Bangalore. The production capacity there supports our sales in India while the engine plant can be scaled up to meet higher demand.

What is the company's outlook for the CV market in India? What are the key opportunities and challenges?
The outlook for the Indian commercial vehicle industry is positive as the country continues to urbanise, there are more investments into infrastructure and increased consumption, particularly through online shopping, which increases transport needs. Progressive economic policies, like GST, are also likely to contribute towards industry growth. Looking ahead, we see stricter emission regulations as an important trend with India set to leapfrog to BS VI emission standard by 2020.

We also see connectivity as an important differentiator in the market as progressive fleet operators and logistics companies see the benefit of telematics in reducing costs and improving productivity. An increased attention to productivity also means TCO awareness and a focus on cost optimisation and fuel efficiency. We currently do not export from our assembly plant in India.

Are you looking at bringing any new products or planning fresh investment in India in the near-term?
We cannot comment on future product launches and investments.

India is going to have emission norms changing in the next two years. What impact will it have on premium trucks? How is Volvo Trucks preparing for this transition?
We already sell Euro 6 engines which are the equivalent of BS VI around the world. We welcome the government’s push towards more sustainable transport and are ready with commercial solutions to meet the stricter emission regulations.

(This interview was first published in the 1 August 2018 issue of Autocar Professional)


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