Ashok Leyland’s Dheeraj Hinduja: ‘We are open to the idea of working with others on EVs.’

by Sumantra B Barooah 05 Nov 2019


Chennai-based commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland recently showcased its heavy duty range of Bharat Stage VI trucks and buses which have received certification from ARAI. Dheeraj G Hinduja, chairman, Ashok Leyland talks about the strategy for globalisation and collaboration for new technology products.

When did you start this modular program? What were the overall goals beyond meeting the obvious emission norms?
We started looking at it more than 10 years ago. We were looking at what can bring in better efficiency, both at the backend and bring more customisation for the customer. However, this is something which will fit very well with the introduction of the BS VI norms.

What made you think that this is the right moment for you to launch it along with the business?
When you look at the new frame, the whole line-up allows you to do the configuration. When you bring in the BS VI engines as well, you need to look into how these fit into this platform. We felt it right while introducing BS VI, bringing a whole new system, bringing the modularity, bringing the cab variants and developing a common look for the cab. It's a whole new approach for Ashok Leyland. So it was an aggressive timeline, but I think it's paid off well and the team has done an excellent job.

Looking at it from the perspective of your global vision, the M&HCV being your bread-and-butter business, and now with the increasing focus on defence and LCVs, how are you going to play in these three buckets in the coming years, relatively in the newer businesses?
We have invested separately. We've got management teams looking at both M&HCVs and LCVs, so that the focus is very much there in that sector. In defence, we have expanded our product offering and this is based on what the government needed. Our defence business has finally turned around and in the right direction. In certain cases, we were in partnership for the development of those products.

We have a good line-up, but still we have a relatively smaller segment compared to our overall sales of M&HCV and LCV. But if I turn to LCV, then yes, we are going to be very aggressive on the LCV side, we successfully turned around the existing business. We took a decision over 18 months ago that we need to have a larger portfolio and as a result of which investments were made, and we look forward to launching the products by the end of this financial year.

You took a slightly different route for BS IV with iEGR and SCR. Are you investing heavily on your IP in terms of technology?
Ashok Leyland’s core focus has to be on the Indian market, Indian customer, Indian marketing and Indian driving conditions. Just because we have a BS VI engine in another part of the world, I cannot bring it over here because it might not meet the cost targets, it might not meet the climate conditions or the road conditions. For us, it was the development process and we chose to see the right way.

Of course, we could have gone the high NOx strategy that many OEMs have done, but we felt that since we had the experience of iEGR and we also had the experience of SCR, combining both of them and making sure that the ad blue consumption remain lower, it allowed us to give a better economy for the customer. So our solutions are always based on what is best in the customer’s interest in India.

As you go global in terms of your vision, what's the mix you see for domestic and the exports, a few years down the line? When you talk about exports, there is a growing trend for collaborative efforts. Would you look at joining hands with any other OE or any other partner?
I don't think anyone can ever match the Indian volume. So no matter how aggressive we might be in the international market, the domestic market will always be the largest. I believe that opportunities of working together could be on the electric side because it is a new area.

If you see all major OEMs, even the fiercest of competitors have decided to collaborate together and they're making better efficiencies as a result of this. We are quite open to the idea of working with people on electric vehicles. Although we have developed a product on our own, it will keep evolving.  The rate at which battery costs have come down has been very significant and its capacity is also increasing. Unless there's some new technology someone is going to offer or bring in or we can co-develop, I don't think we have done everything to make sure that we're very much independent and self-reliant in our technologies.

Also read: Ashok Leyland gets BS-VI ready, plans overseas business expansion

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