Magneti Marelli India plans wider product range

With an increasing number of passenger car OEMs pushing for development of new car platforms in India, cost-effective electronics is set to become an integral part of new developments penetrating this segment across the board.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 07 Oct 2013 Views icon4567 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Magneti Marelli India plans wider product range
With an increasing number of passenger car OEMs pushing for development of new car platforms in India, cost-effective electronics is set to become an integral part of new developments penetrating this segment across the board.

MagnetiMarelli, the component arm of Italian carmaker Fiat SpA, for one, is strengthening its competencies in India by scaling up its R&D investments. It is also expanding its product development, test and validation capability in India, particularly in electronics, to become cost competitive and to keep pace with shortening product development cycles.

MagnetiMarelli UM Electronic Systems’ 150-member R&D team, based at Manesar, is being nurtured not only to handle real-time projects in India but also to work on global platforms in areas like navigation systems, information telematics and instrument clusters.

Emergency on eCall

A new technology that is expected to become increasingly relevant for India is eCall. In Europe, it is set to become a regulation from next year mandating installation of an emergency call in a vehicle. If a driver is in distress, the eCall facilitates contact and connection with the outside world. This is how it works: eCall and similarly Era-Glonass that are European and Russian initiatives combine mobile communications and satellite positioning to provide rapid assistance to motorists in the event of a collision. The system – eCall-based on GPS and the Era on Glonass – monitors in-vehicle sensors for events like airbag deployment and automatically transmits location details and summons assistance through the emergency cellular service. When activated, the in-vehicle systems automatically initiate an emergency call carrying both voice and data (including location data) directly to the nearest public safety answering point to determine whether rescue services should be despatched to the known position.

The core functionality of both these systems is an embedded computer that continuously monitors crash sensors and the satellite positioning receiver in order to initiate an automated data and full duplex voice call through a dedicated wireless modem in case of an emergency. In-band modem capability, the ability to transmit data over the voice channel, is a key requirement for both systems. The aim is to equip all cars in the EU and Russia with dedicated hardware either as first mount unit in new cars or installed in pre-existing vehicles as aftermarket devices. The motivation for both systems is the reduction of the consequences of road accidents.

The development of eCall can be considered a feather in the cap for MagnetiMarelli India. “We have received expressions of interest from OEMs in India who plan to export their cars. It will eventually become important for the local market here as well and will be localised for local production and sales. While it is now an accessory in India, going forward it will become mandatory and OEMs that export their vehicles will have to fix it,” says SajuMookken, country manager, MagnetiMarelli India. The component maker is targeting eCall as a factory fitment.

Localisation of the eCall (part of the telematics box) will make it cost effective, depending on the number of functions added to it. The device will involve a one-time investment with incremental cost compared to an imported product.

Growing potential for the telematic box

Mookken also visualises that the telematics box (T-box) will find a wider application in the commercial vehicle segment for tracking functions, logistics management and also managing driver behaviour. The company already supplies the T-box to Tata Motors and expects the product to find more takers in the future in the CV market.

For MagnetiMarelli, the next step involves fitting the T-box even in passenger cars in order to curb thefts as well as help track vehicle and driver behaviour. An ensuing benefit that will accrue to insurance companies will involve addressing false claims.

Another area where MagnetiMarelli has been traditionally strong is its automated manual transmission (AMT) gearbox. While it has begun supplying this product globally for passenger car applications, it hopes to introduce this product for the A, B and C car segments in India by end-2013 or early 2014.

The market for automated cars in India is very miniscule today but in the last two years, automated transmissions have been finding some acceptance in urban markets and also by women drivers who prefer to avoid shifting gears and using the clutch while moving in chocablock and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Later, the AMT is also expected to be on offer in light commercial vehicles. In the D and above segments, fully automated transmissions are predominantly used.

Fuel injection to the fore for two-wheelers

In the two-wheeler segment, MagnetiMarelli is considering the introduction of fuel injection systems. Historically, it has been working on fuel injected systems for cars and now has a range of technologies available for two-wheelers as well.

In India, fuel-injected motorcycles account for just about one percent of the total two-wheeler sales of around 15 million per annum. But with changing emission norms, fuel-injected systems are expected to replace carburetted vehicles, both in motorcycles and scooters. Today, the benefits of higher fuel efficiency along with riding comfort is pushing two-wheeler OEMs to work with suppliers on fuel injected solutions. For the past year, the company has been in discussions with several two-wheeler makers in India to expand its reach in this product line.

At present, MagnetiMarelli India is working on specific programmes with two-wheeler makers in the mass commuter bike segment and some of these will likely be launched in the market by end-2014.

Earlier, MagnetiMarelli was believed to be mulling a joint venture with Hero MotoCorp, but a non-committal Mookken says the company would have some definitive information in some months. But he admits that a new manufacturing facility is pretty much on the radar for the new product line.

For MagnetiMarelli, India and China are two important two-wheeler markets as India is the second largest market for two-wheelers after China.

In India there are few players with reasonable volumes while in China there are several players making up a large market and offering a large opportunity to component makers eager to woo them. The company’s key R&D centre for powertrain at Italy is currently engaged in the development of fuel injection systems.

From a strategy perspective, MagnetiMarelli has taken the joint venture route to establish its presence in India. At present, it has seven joint ventures that leverage the local partner’s knowledge of the market and operational management experience. In turn, MagnetiMarelli contributes its global customer base and technology.

Meanwhile, MagnetiMarelli despite the ongoing slowdown has not put its expansion plans on hold maintaining it is still in the ramp up phase. Hence, its smaller base has cushioned the impact to just 10 percent across group companies.

The expansion plans of its Indian arm are expected to help treble its revenues in India by 2016-17, up from the current Rs 1,400 crore. This will go a long way in enhancing its India contribution to five percent of its global revenues, reiterating the significance of the Indian automotive market in the worldwide scheme of things.
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