'At present, OEMs in India are not that willing to pay for lightweighting technologies.'

by Amit Panday Nov 24, 2016

gagandeep-singh

Pune-based Bright Autoplast is looking to leverage its new joint venture to produce lightweight parts. Company CEO, Gagandeep Singh reveals why BS VI norms will bring a plethora of opportunities for lightweighting technologies. An interview by Amit Panday.

How was Bright Autoplast's market performance in FY2016 and what are your projections for FY2017?

The past two years have been very good for us. In FY2015, we grew by 17 percent year on year and in FY2016, by 18 percent YoY. They are good numbers especially when the market was not moving as projected earlier.

For FY2017, although we have budgeted a growth around 17 percent YoY, we may record slightly less than that. I estimate that we should be able to register anywhere around 15 percent YoY, which also is not a bad number. A lot of new projects have begun this year, which will bear fruit next year onwards.

What is the growth roadmap for the company until 2020?

Our turnover was Rs 530 crore and by 2020-21 we are targeting Rs 1,160 crore. There has been a lot of backend work that has gone into devising this roadmap. This involves the results coming from four new initiatives as stated earlier.

We are anticipating that these four new initiatives put together will account for nearly Rs 300 crore by 2020-21 in our consolidated turnover.

How do you perceive the incoming legislation on BS VI emission norms? Do you see it as a challenge or an opportunity?

It is going to be an opportunity as well as a challenge. The challenge will be to stay updated with all the new technologies. The opportunity will be that we will become system suppliers and not just a part supplier. For example through the joint venture, we will become a system supplier.

Do you think that the focus on BS VI emission norms will make OEMs pay more attention to the lightweighting areas in cars?

Moving to BS VI emission norms will definitely bring in adequate focus on the fuel economy part, which will have to consider the lightweight technologies in cars. OEMs in India today are not that willing to pay for lightweight technologies. For us, the BS VI norms are a big opportunity.

Also with BS VI norms coming in, a number of additional components will be added to the existing powertrain assemblies which will make vehicles heavier. Are OEMs talking to suppliers like you on this front?

Yes, all the OEMs are now talking on this. However, the point of concern as of today is that they are not willing to pay extra for superior technologies.

What is the current status of the exports business?

Our export business currently is not much in comparison with the domestic business. The export business could be understood in two ways — direct exports and exports via the OEMs. If we consider the latter, then it would be approximately 15 percent of the overall business. However, if we consider direct exports, then it would be roughly 3-4 percent of the overall business.

This is certainly going to change in the coming years. Our target is that by 2020 we should be able to (direct) export anything between 15-20 percent of our overall turnover.

We have set up a separate marketing group, which will solely focus on the international business. The roadmap for boosting business under exports is being prepared currently and is estimated to be ready in another 6-8 months.

How would you define the evolution of lightweighting technologies in vehicle development in India? Has the replacement of metal by plastics seen a sharp evolution or has it been gradual?

Within lightweighting initiatives, I think metal to plastics has not gained much pace as per my understanding. However, what has actually gained pace over the last three years is how to reduce the thickness of the particular plastic part. For example, if the thickness of a plastic part is 3mm, the focus has been on reducing it to 1.5 to 2mm. So, weight reduction efforts within plastics have gained traction dramatically.

Metal to plastics, on the other hand, is growing with its usual speed across the industry. This is so because we feel that OEMs have an apprehension that buyers may not understand that and perceive it as a quality- compromise step. This factor singularly is stopping OEMs from being aggressive on this front.

In India metals are perceived to be safer than plastics. Do you think that the recent NCAP crash test results promote this general understanding among the end consumers?

OEMs clearly understand that by replacing metals with plastic components, safety won’t be compromised. However, the perception issue lies with the end consumer, and we believe that OEMs are not able to overcome that. The reinforcements that can be made on plastics cannot be done on metals.

Do you think consumers are prepared to pay more for less polluting vehicles, especially when they are ready to pay more for safety features primarily ABS?

My personal viewpoint is that people will be ready to pay for less polluting vehicles. As regards safety norms, the awareness has gone up dramatically. Incidents like cars catching fire and on-road accidents have only contributed towards this trend.

What is the current share of plastic content in an overall assembly of a car? Do you see this increasing over time?

It could be anywhere between 10-15 percent in the overall car in the Indian context. Of course, this will grow in the coming years. It will move towards over 20 percent in the future. The ideal share would be 30-35 percent in India. However, to grow the share of plastics beyond that would be a challenge.

What are the potential areas within a car where maximum weight can be saved? How much weight reduction is ideally achieved in such cases?

What I think can be easily done to save on weight would be the door structures in the interior, trunk, tailgate, floor parts and others.

Normally, the weight reduction achieved is in the range of 20-25 percent in comparison to conventional metal parts. Weight savings of less than 15 percent usually do not make business sense and weight savings of more than 30 percent usually require advanced materials, which become too expensive.

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