2012 South India Special: Lucas-TVS thinks niche to expand export presence

Lucas will also tap these brushless DC motors for non-auto applications like domestic appliances – refrigerators and washing machines.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 31 Jul 2012 Views icon11203 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
2012 South India Special: Lucas-TVS thinks niche to expand export presence
Advanced engineering and R&D in future technologies are fast becoming de rigueur for speedy progress. Indian auto component players are taking this growth path to excel in niche markets and niche product segments.

For instance, Chennai-based Lucas-TVS, which makes brushed-type motors, is eyeing several niche applications of brushless DC motors which are high efficiency motors and almost maintenance-free. The company has a separate team of engineers working on advanced engineering projects since the past two-and-a-half years. Work on future technologies is currently underway in full swing, both on the products as well as process side such as start-stop systems, compact gear reduction starters, internal fan alternators, micro and mild hybrid systems and regenerative braking systems.

The brushless motors being developed in-house at Lucas are for an OEM project in Germany and will be leveraged in engine cooling fans for futuristic passenger car models.

At present, Indian suppliers mostly produce brushed-type motors but with many car and commercial vehicle OEMs opting for future applications with the brushless variety that are beneficial in terms of being more silent, and offer increased longevity with reduced wear and tear of brushes, vendors are in overdrive to enhance their R&D capability in this area.

Lucas will also tap these brushless DC motors for non-auto applications like domestic appliances – refrigerators and washing machines. That's not all. The company is looking at harnessing the brushless motors in emission control devices such as urea pumps for meeting stringent Euro 5 and 6 emission norms. Specific motors are required in urea pumps in the Selective Catalytic Reduction technology for treatment of exhaust systems and brushless motors are found to be useful here.

Development work with several overseas engine manufacturers is currently underway on small brushless motors for meeting stringent emission norms initially for the global market and later for India. The product rollout is slated within two to three years.

In sync with Wabco

Interestingly, Lucas-TVS’ biggest success story is with partner Wabco of Germany to whom it currently supplies brushed compressor motors that are fitted into the air suspension systems at Wabco Germany.

Having kicked off the project four years ago, the supplier is today talking of exporting half-a-million compressor motors to Wabco for use in high-end cars. The supplies to Wabco this fiscal will run into 600,000 motors heading to Europe from the company’s export-oriented unit at Padi in Chennai.

The air suspension systems enable a cushioning effect in a vehicle, facilitating a smooth ride. Though initial supplies to Wabco were small, bolstered by the success of the products, Wabco is today talking of extending its product basket with Lucas-TVS as the compressor motors operate at international ppm levels. The vendor currently has an annual production capacity of 1.8 to 2.2 million of brushed motors for wiping systems, blower motors, fan motors and compressor motors; some portion of this is expected to be taken over by the brushless variety later on. The brushless motors will be produced in one of Lucas-TVS’ seven plants, with production set to commence within a couple of years.

While Wabco is one of the lead partners for Lucas-TVS in its future overseas programmes, the Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) in the US is another key customer. CVG is believed to be in the process of transiting to the Indian supplier for all its requirements of wiper motors for its entire CV range including HCVs and buses from the current US vendor.

N S Bhawani Shankar, assistant VP (marketing), says Lucas-TVS has demonstrated significant benefits in its wiper motors in various applications besides meeting high safety norms. Hence the growing association with CVG. This fiscal, wiper motor exports to CVG could touch 300,000 units from the Padi EOU. Current figures are around 250,000 units with Lucas keen to look at other markets outside the US as well.

The supplier is also developing for CVG its first lead project for higher torque motors that will have the highest 120 Nm wiper motor developed by Lucas-TVS. Standard motors have a maximum of 52 Nm torque, including those which are currently supplied.

Eyeing bigger exports

Exports currently contribute only 10 percent of the company’s topline but with the new order basket, Lucas is mulling a third accruing from outside India by 2015-16, mainly from niche markets and niche segments. The auto electricals parts supplier is optimistic of nudging a topline of Rs 4,000 crore by 2015-16, and Rs 1,850 crore in FY’13 from the current Rs 1,650 crore.

A few months ago, Lucas inked an agreement with Iveco of the Fiat Group, for supplies of wiping systems to CVs like the Iveco Stralis and Eurocargo in Europe. Supplies are slated to commence later this year.

This agreement signals a major breakthrough into the Fiat Group with the wiping systems being developed in-house. The products include a wiper motor and linkages that will be assembled at Padi and could well extend to a further range of vehicles going forward, reveals Shankar.

Though Lucas will kick-start operations with small numbers, volumes are expected to pick up as demand beefs up. The wiping systems will sport different part numbers for left-hand and right-hand drive vehicles.

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are another niche focus area for Lucas-TVS and it has successfully developed starter motors for Arctic Cat in the US. The company was originally sourcing these parts from Japan and is replacing them as Lucas-TVS' products were found to be of better quality.

With these orders in its kitty, Lucas-TVS is striving to push its product portfolio of wiping systems, starter motors, compressor motors and alternators in a big way by 2015-16, in an attempt to expand its range in the export product basket.

Expanding footprint

Indian companies have increasingly been nursing ambitious plans to set up facilities on foreign soil and Lucas is no exception.It is following Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra in Indian locales and also targeting their overseas ventures to be within close proximity. For instance, when Tata Motors went to Uttaranchal, Lucas-TVS Group companies were among the first few to set up a facility near the plant.

Now with Tata making inroads into Thailand and Indonesia, Lucas is exploring the possibility of setting up an assembly unit in South-East Asia. Already, TVS Motor has a plant in Indonesia and Tata also has plans for this market. Lucas-TVS will also be supplying starter motors to Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle’s engine plant at Pithampur. VECV’s engines are likely to be shipped to South-East Asian markets and this will give Lucas-TVS more reason to set up an assembly line in place in this region. The project SOP is slated for mid-next year.

Meanwhile, Lucas-TVS has been strengthening its communication links overseas. It has appointed staffers in Europe to interact with customers and also opened an office in Japan. Besides, it has an agency in Korea. The company has also been chosen as a preferred supplier for small car programmes in India for starter motors and alternators. In the recent past, it has developed a low noise, high efficiency AC blower motor for automotive applications in collaboration with YDK of Japan. With increasing demand from customers for higher efficiency products, Lucas-TVS has developed technologies for improved engine cooling with viscous clutch fan designs provided under licence from USUI Corporation, Japan.

On the vehicle maintenance front, the supplier has developed a range of high technology air, oil and fuel filters for the automotive aftermarket under licence from Lee Han of Korea.

It is in discussions with various local and global OEMs for introduction of these technologies. Furthermore, it has struck a relationship with a US company for strengthening its product line for HCVs.

Another business and growth de-risking exercise has seen it develop components like starter motors and alternators for the defence market. All said and done, in the face of the oncoming slowdown, Lucas-TVS seems well aligned with its growth trajectory with not only the domestic market but exports that are pitted to be a key performer.

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