Head of Continental India and managing director, Continental Automotive India, talks about the decade-long journey of manufacturing systems and components locally in India, global technology major earmarks fresh investment and also opens a new R&D facility in Manesar to cater to global and regional R&D requirements for its brake systems.
How do you view the past decade in India for the Continental Group?Over the past 10 years, we have made substantial investments and continue to see potential and success in India. This is the reason for a lot of vertical localisation which is underway. When the anti-lock braking system (ABS) was mandated in India two years ago, we were the first company to invest in a line with a complete automated assembly in Gurgaon. And with growing demand, in January this year, we announced further integration in making high-end ECUs for the ABS and Automatic Stability Control (ASC) in our Bangalore facility. We are going to announce a greenfield facility in India in the next 6-8 months.
The past decade has been a success for Continental and our growth is going to further accelerate in the coming years. As a technology company, Continental has all those products which the market wants in and it is easy for us to bring those technologies and adapt them to local conditions.
What do you think have been the key landmarks for Continental in India?
In terms of people, we have grown from a few thousand to over 8,000 and will be reaching 10,000 in the next couple of years. Secondly, the tech centre, which opened in 2009 with seven people, has over 3,000 engineers. The tech centres become part of any new development for global products. Thirdly, we see a lot of opportunities in the near future which we are already working such as artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning and machine learning.
What are the future growth areas for Continental in India?
We see safe, clean and connected mobility as the three main pillars of our growth in India in the next few years.
In terms of our manufacturing facilities, we have eight plants: one central electronics part units in Bangalore, two plants each in Pune and Manesar, one plant in Modipuram for tyres and one plant in Sonepat, Haryana as part of ContiTech and one plant in Kolkata.
What is the level of your export activities from India?
We do a reasonable amount of exports from India across all product lines be it chassis parts, powertrain products and interior products to global markets. Also, some of the exports go fitted within completely built-up vehicles. As a strategy, whenever we set up a production line, it is always at the most optimal cost. Based on this, the decision is being taken from which country to support. We do export but our focus is high on the domestic market.
Continental is a major ABS supplier in India for two-wheelers. Do you also cater to the commercial vehicle segment?
We are among the major players in India across the two- and four- wheeler segments. We do not cater to ABS in the commercial vehicle industry, both in India and globally. However, we do supply CVs with instrument clusters which are locally produced, engine management systems and electronic fuel injection systems. And, on the after- treatment front, we supply SCR, NOx sensors and temperature control sensors for commercial vehicles.
Continental is also working on electronic stability control (ESC) technology.
ESC has not yet been mandated in India, but with higher focus on vehicle safety in the coming years, do you see higher penetration of this technology in the Indian market?
Although ESC has not been mandated in India, we have already won a couple of programs with Indian OEMs for ESC coming up in 2019-2020. ESC is not just coming for the premium cars but is also popular in the B-segment and C-segment of cars. ESC is getting popular even in the SUV segment. For example, the Ford EcoSport has got an option for ESC. The (Indian) government is working on ESC regulations and I think the mandate could come by 2020 or so.
(This interview was first published in the 1 September 2018 issue of Autocar Professional)