Neolite ZKW Lightings has bagged the order to manufacture headlamps for the proposed General Motors-Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) new saloon, codenamed S2. The initial order is likely to target 80,000 cars annually. The lighting systems have been designed at the Pan-Asia Technical Automotive Centre (PATAC) of GM-SAIC in Shanghai, China that was established as a 50:50 joint venture for extending design and engineering support.
Neolite has prepared the prototypes of the headlamps based on this design and has forwarded them to PATAC for validation, with approval expected within three months. Subsequently, the headlamps will be produced by Neolite and fitted in the S2 saloon at GM India’s (GMI) manufacturing facility at Talegaon in Pune.
The headlamps are believed to be aerodynamically designed and elliptical in shape and powered by halogen bulbs, which is in line with the demands of the current generation of cars, according to Neolite officials. Neolite is working closely with PATAC in the proto-sampling and validation process of the headlamps. The company will commence supplies of these headlamps in August 2012. GM India had earlier announced that it will launch five new vehicles with 14 variants by end-2012. But GM officials have not made any comment as to whether the S2 will be part of the proposed five new models. The S2 will compete in the same segment as the Maruti Dzire.
The S2 saloon or the Chevrolet Sail is the first passenger car of GM to be completely designed in China by Shanghai GM. Developing the Sail in China has given GM a huge cost advantage in addition to savings accruing from the use of an existing car platform. The Sail’s platform is believed to trace its roots to GM’s earlier Opel Corsa model that was marketed in India till 2006.
Meanwhile, Neolite has also bagged orders for other GMI cars which include interior lights and fog lamps for 40,000 units of the Spark, 60,000 units of the Beat and 12,000 fog lamps for the Tavera annually. Supplies are expected to commence in the next four months for the Tavera while the supplies for the Beat and Spark have begun. Other OEs that Neolite is targeting include Volkswagen India, Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra.
While Neolite already supplies fog lamps for the Fabia, it expects to bag more orders as the lamp may be added as a customised feature in other car models as well, such as the Vento and Polo. This is currently under negotiation with production of the fog lamps slated to begin by August for all three VW models, if the order is won.
In terms of new projects, Neolite is also targeting front lamps for the new platforms of cars and SUVs of Tata Motors and M&M respectively. Mass production of tail-lamps with LED technology for Tata Motors’ Y1 light commercial vehicle (LCV) is expected to kick off by August, with development work completed about six months ago.
Bahadurgarh plant goes on stream
Neolite’s new plant at Bahadurgarh in Haryana has recently gone on stream. The facility has been approved by VW India and is being audited by other OEMs. Rajesh Jain, Neolite’s managing director, says that Bahadurgarh will only produce automotive lighting for OEs while the Gurgaon plant that currently manufactures auto lighting for exports, OEs and the aftermarket will only focus on the aftermarket, going forward.
Built over five acres, the Bahadurgarh plant will be ramped up in two phases. Neolite has invested Rs 60 crore, funded primarily through internal accruals in the first phase that is spread over 150,000 square feet. Another Rs 50 crore will be invested in the second phase to cover 80,000 square feet. Products from here will go to GM India, VW, Tata Motors, M&M besides Volvo Eicher and MAN for whom Neolite is a single-source supplier as also Mahindra Navistar and Ashok Leyland. The company’s Noida plant has been taken over by the home lights division and the auto lighting production shifted out.
At present, the aftermarket and export business contributes about 30 percent of the total business of Neolite but this equation could fall to 25 percent next year as not much opportunity is visualised in this segment.
Meanwhile, Jain told Autocar Professional that the expanding business of the company could also warrant a greenfield facility in Western India, preferably Pune, in the next two years. While admitting that exports are not a focus area for the company, Jain says that Neolite exports small side lights, headlamps and fog lamps to Piaggio in Italy. “We may be getting into a global programme along with our collaborator ZKW of Austria that could involve supplies of tail-lamps, signalling lamps and roof lamps to Paccar trucks in USA going forward,” remarks Jain. Paccar is already a customer of ZKW globally.
Neolite has also received a ‘request for quote’ from Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, which is a strong customer of its collaborator overseas and is eyeing big orders from this client.
The joint venture with ZKW was forged in 2007 with Neolite entering the OE automotive business about seven years ago after its stint in plastics and mouldings for the aftermarket and exports.
ZKW's global effect
Jain elaborates that global programmes depend on opportunities and ZKW will guide them in this direction. Other likely targets will be GM and Volvo 3P comprising Nissan and Scania who will be rolling out their next generation LCVs in China, Thailand and India. Neolite will supply tail-lamps and side markers, roof lamps and reflectors for the Volvo 3P combine starting February next year for all these markets.
Neolite has maintained a CAGR of 30 percent but is optimistic of reaping higher benefits next year after winning more new orders. “ZKW is mostly into premium-end front lighting and we are targeting the same thing in India besides a larger share of the automotive lighting OE pie,” says Jain.
According to him, the growth in automotive lighting in the last five years has kept pace with the vehicle growth while the aftermarket has remained stagnant.“Value additions are now taking place in lighting with more fancy lights with larger number of features and good looks being preferred. While it is pushing up costs for the OEMs with new technology and LEDs leveraged for it, these lights are more aesthetic and will drive industry growth,” he adds.
Jain says that while Xenon bulbs are being harnessed for advanced lighting in headlamps internationally, especially in Europe, India continues to use halogen bulbs in ‘India- manufactured cars’. “Xenon bulbs have a longer life, better clarity and output and generate a white light instead of yellow, reducing glare,” he remarks. But on the flip side, they are very expensive and therefore their absence in India.
He adds that adaptive front lighting systems (AFS), wherein light adapts itself to different situations on the road, dipping when it is raining, spreading across a longer range on highways or bending when manoeuvring around curved bends to increase clarity, are also required in India.
“ZKW is developing headlamps with LEDs and AFS for the BMW 7-series and also using Xenon bulbs and LEDs in headlamps,” says Jain. Ten years down the line, LEDs will be commonly used to light homes, street lights and automotives in India as well, he says confidently.