What went into the making of TVS Neo

It was a great learning experience for the two-wheeler company, reports T Murrali who was in Jakarta recently.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 13 Jun 2007 Views icon4240 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
What went into the making of TVS Neo
Karawang Industrial city in Jakarta is the new home to TVS Motor Company which has set up a plant here to manufacture its Neo step-thru. The place is well connected by roads and absolutely green. Quite a sharp contrast to some of India’s industrial belts which are characterised by rapidly disappearing vegetation!

PT TVS Motor’s plant is located on a 50-acre plot with enough scope for expansion though operations are confined to merely an assembly area now. Engine manufacturing will be the next big thing if everything goes according to plan. There are about 160 people working here and this includes 20 expatriates. Company president, BLP Simha told visiting journalists that the heart and soul of TVS was the same everywhere. After all, the plant and systems are similar to the ones back home in Hosur, Mysore and, more recently, Himachal Pradesh.

INTELLIGENT BIKE

The Neo step-thru, which is GEN-I or the intelligent generation bike, will take on competing models from Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki (in addition to Kymco of Taiwan and Indonesia’s Kanzen). Senior vice-president and head of R&D, Vinay Harne, was entrusted with a huge responsibility but, along with his committed team, has risen to the challenge.

A lion’s share of the two-wheeler market in Indonesia is dominated by bebeks, while scubeks (the crossover of scooter and bebeks) take up 12 percent. Motorcycles, classified locally as sporty two-wheelers, account for the balance. TVS will offer the Neo in three variants accompanied by interesting features. Simha said a lot of effort went into understanding the market and evolving a product to satisfy customers. A durability test of about 10,000 km across the country was carried out.

Director (sales and marketing), K Vijaya Kumar said that the biggest task was in brand building as the average Indonesian consumer is neither aware of India nor TVS! What emerged clearly was that his eye for detail is higher than his counterpart in India.

Interestingly, men use bebeks on weekdays and women during the weekend. Not only are they used extensively but demand for space is higher. This is not all. Cleanliness is top priority and people tend to park their vehicles in their living rooms, something that is hardly seen in India. The punch line for the Neo is ‘TVS -riders inspired’.

##### INNOVATIVE FEATURES

Getting back to Harne, he and his team worked on innovative features like i-RiDE which gives both auto and manual clutch options. Apart from this, great attention was paid to auto clutch, step-through style, better fit and finish and helmet space under the seat.

TVS has designed a new engine with dual clutch which allows for faster ride or overtaking. It has developed another feature called i-Start which is indicates engine temperature and the need to operate the choke. This feature has a sensor coupled with microprocessor controller which changes the ignition timing to give a faster warm up and the blinking light in the dashboard indicates the engine condition.

Harne said that the average Indonesian is shorter than an Indian which meant the Neo had to take this into account. It has a low centre of gravity and the seat is also lower. Initially, the bottom half of the engine comprising the gearbox and automatic clutch will be imported from India. Both Indian and local vendors have been a tremendous pillar of support. Local content is 40 percent and will be increased to 80 percent in phases.

TVS has designed its dealer outlets taking into consideration the average frontage available for commercial establishments across Indonesia. Most have about 30 feet frontage and the company has created a model dealership with provision for sales, service and spares. This will help prospective dealers understand needs better, said Vijaya Kumar.

QUALITY SERVICE

Another challenge, he added, was to provide uniform quality service towards which it has tied up with local garages/mechanics. The Neo is positioned as a family product and will be an ideal fit for the segment of society which goes in for step-thrus.

It could also target the Ojek (two-wheeler taxi in Indonesia) which accounts for more than 20 percent of total bebek sales. Institutional buying will also be examined. The company has already signed up distributors in East and West Java as well as Sumatra while dealers will be appointed to cover the entire country. It has also tied up with a finance company to help in the retail effort.
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