James E Sweetnam, senior vice-president and president of Eaton Corporation’s Truck business.

The senior vice-president and president of Eaton Corporation’s Truck business reveals the industrial conglomerate's India gameplan to Eliot Lobo

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 24 Mar 2008 Views icon2327 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
James E Sweetnam, senior vice-president and president of Eaton Corporation’s Truck business.

Why has it taken so long for Eaton to get to the Indian marketplace?
You’re correct in terms of visibility — this is our first foray. But actually we’ve been at the Indian market for a long time. We’ve had a couple of tries, not successful. It’s not new from the point of view that we don’t know the market. We’ve actually been studying it for a long time.One of the lessons we’ve learnt in the last couple of years in India and China is that you cannot necessarily take a product you have elsewhere in the world and sell it in these markets. We’ve had to spend time to truly understand the applications here, the specific needs, which drives the need to have front-end engineering on the ground in India, people who understand what’s going on, and who, together with our product management folks, can influence the design of products we’ll put into the marketplace.
Where does your India operation fit within your global manufacturing strategy?
All our facilities globally are designed and integrated to operate on a global basis. So in that context the investment we are making in India with the facility in Ranjangaon, similar to an investment we’ve just made in a wholly owned facility in China, is multifaceted. The site here will make products for the domestic market and products we may sell to customers outside India. And it will also make components that we will ship to any plant in the world.
What will the Indian plant specialise in?
The focus will be on medium duty transmissions. It will also ship components for light, medium, and heavy duty transmissions to the rest of the world.
When do you expect to introduce heavy duty transmissions?
We’ve seen this happen in other markets — we start with medium-duty, and as the infrastructure capability grows and you start to have bigger, heavier vehicles, you see the advent of what we describe as the 'heavy' market. And we see that progression will happen eventually. Can we tell you exactly when? No. I think we just have to wait and see how things progress.
Your focus on India is primarily on the truck market. What about buses?
We want to be fairly specific to play to the strengths we believe we have with our products. And what are the strengths of our products? They do really well in difficult, tough applications. We’re well known for the durability, the reliability, and the performance of our products in some pretty tough vocational applications. Whether it’s a cement mixer or a dump truck, with all the construction you’re seeing here, there will be more and more of these types of vehicles. These are ideal applications for our products.
Electronic engines are being introduced now. What is the scope in this market for your mobile diagnostic products?
There’ll be scope for that, but I think much more interestingly, the advent of electronic engines opens up a whole new opportunity for our UltraShift automated manual transmissions (AMTs). Those have been developed specifically to work with electronic engines. This opens up some great opportunities to sell engine and transmission packages that are much better suited for some specific applications.We’ve also got a new technology we’re about to commercialise called ECA or electronic clutch actuation. And electronic engines will obviously help to enable that. With ECA we now have very precise and defined control of the clutch, and what it does with the engine and the transmission, than we have ever been able to have. So that really helps shift quality, shift speed, and also positions us much better in vocational applications where a torque-converter-type transmission has traditionally been preferred. With ECA we’re now able to emulate what an automatic does.
Are you looking at the aftermarket in India?
Absolutely. The aftermarket business is very attractive. We’ve been growing it very aggressively in the last five years. It was part of our declared strategy as we looked to diversify away from the cyclicality of the North American Class 8 market, we needed something to kind of rebalance that. We aggressively grew our light and medium duty business, so that business is substantially bigger than it was five or six years ago. We aggressively grew our aftermarket business, and we’ve been growing our clutch business. That’s why we’re pushing hard to be in India and China.So is aftermarket important? It’s absolutely important. However, as we think about markets like India and China, one has to develop a population of products, whether it’s on the clutch side or transmission side, for a number or years before you start to see some flow of aftermarket opportunities — in parts and service.
What about the Roadranger system? Is that something only for the North American market?
The Roadranger system is a large group of people we have in the field across the US, Canada, and Mexico. Their sole purpose in life is to service and take care of our end-user customers. Not the OEMs. So these would be the fleets that use the product, they would be the drivers.Many fleets need and want advice about how they should spec their trucks. The Roadrangers are very knowledgeable because they’ve been at this business for ages. They advise customers about what makes the best sense — what kind of axle, what kind of transmission for the engine spec, what drive ratio, the whole gamut.This is a model we’ve used very successfully in North America. Is it transferrable? We think so. But obviously it takes time to develop something like that — putting the resources in place, developing the people. But we think it’s something that has a possibility in China, in India, in that we firmly believe that the closer you can get to the end-user customers and help them with the use of your product, you start to pull that product through the OEM.

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