2013 South India Special - Vinod K Dasari, managing director, Ashok Leyland
Ashok Leyland's managing director looks back on a tough year and says the Ecomet and refreshed U-Truck range have received customer acceptance.
Can we start with an overview of the fiscal year gone by, the challenges and opportunities for Ashok Leyland?
In 2012-13, despite the overall medium and heavy commercial vehicle segment falling 25 percent, Ashok Leyland held its own and actually gained 3 percent share of this falling market. The reasons for this are many. Firstly, there was a growing acceptance for Ashok Leyland’s trucks and buses. Its share in the ICV (Intermediate Commercial Vehicle) segment grew on the back of the success of the Ecomet range while trucks on the refreshed U-Truck platform found greater traction with customers. ALL launched the five-axle 3718il (10x2) with a unique lift axle in the middle, developed to answer customers’ need for a higher capacity rigid truck for better operational economics. Select multi-axle models offered with the innovative twin-speed rear axle technology have been well accepted by customers because it enhances the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. On the passenger side, the new, improved ICV buses on the Stag and Lynx platforms drove sales while the Ashok Leyland school buses, re-launched after meeting all the stringent safety norms as stipulated by various authorities, have won many takers. The Dost, the first LCV from the joint venture with Nissan, continued its successful run and garnered an all-India market share of 19 percent.Ashok Leyland also addressed fresh, hitherto untapped markets of potential while an extremely robust and aggressive network development programme increased its each. Today, with over 465 full-service centres, ALL is well placed to deliver on its Tatkaal promise of being able to reach a customer within four hours on all major highways and vehicle restoration within 48 hours. The number of dealerships grew and the newly-inducted dealers contributed handsomely.On the spares side, about 6,000 Leypart outlets pan-India gives ALL added presence and convenience. 49 Leypart Shoppes added a new dimension to ready parts availability and the army of nearly 20,000 retailers and mechanics, chosen and nurtured through the highly successful eMITR loyalty programme has improved ALL’s reach manifold.
How will the fall in the M&HCV sector impact projections going forward, given that there's no likelihood of an uptick soon and also some signs of softness in the LCV segment?
The commercial vehicle industry is closely linked to GDP growth and the present sluggishness in the economy is having an adverse impact. However, the India growth story is far from over and there are already some green shoots that have started to appear in the form of some stalled infrastructure projects kick-starting, relaxation of mining licenses, the fruition of the order for buses under JnNURM 2 and the announcement of a new Defence procurement policy. ALL will remain focused on being future-ready by staying committed to its product development, network expansion and cost control programmes. We believe that governmental action will help spur the M&HCV segment and good monsoons and the growing retail sector will result in the LCV segment reviving.
What markets are you looking at in this fiscal, especially the east and in particular what’s the outlook for the bus sector?
With our pan-India presence, ALL will seek to consolidate by continuing to aggressively expand network and introducing new products engineered to improve customer viability. Our penetration in East and North East is evident in higher market shares from these regions during the last fiscal. As the largest bus manufacturer in India and the fourth largest in the world, ALL already has a most comprehensive range of medium and heavy duty buses and coaches. It has a lion’s share of the STU (State Transport Undertaking) business, which is characterised by strict adherence to pre-determined urban bus body specifications and aggressive pricing. The company recently bagged an order for 2,610 buses from the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation for both intercity and intra-city needs. The JnNURM 2 scheme will be an ideal launch pad for the JanBus – the world’s first low-floor, front-engine, fully-flat floor bus specially configured to cater to the needs of urban transportation.
Finally, what synergies have been achieved between ALL and Avia/Optare?
The soon-to-be launched BOSS truck in the ICV range will sport the modified and indigenised AVIA cab.
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