Big brother to the Dost small CV, the new light commercial vehicle in Phoenix platform, indigenously developed right from scratch, Bada Dost LCV, aims to make headway both in India and global markets. The modular LCV, with both left-hand and right-hand drive variants with multiple GVW options will be available with diesel, CNG and also electric power. The new LCV is priced between Rs 775,000 – 799,000 (ex-showroom Mumbai) and will be first available in seven states. The potential list includes Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat. Pondicherry and Goa are also being considered.
The i3 LS (with power steering) and 2.99T GVW is priced Rs Rs 775,000 while the i3 LX (with power steering and AC) is priced at Rs 795,000. The i4 LS (with power steering) 3.49T GVW carries the price tag of Rs 779,000 and the i4 LX with power steering and AC will be priced Rs 799,000. All the prices are ex-showroom Mumbai.
Nearly a decade after Chennai-based Ashok Leyland rolled out its first SCV – the Dost – the company is revisiting the segment with a new model – a big light CV named Bada (big in Hindi) Dost. Ashok Leyland launched its first LCV, the Dost, in 2011 in a segment that none of its rivals was present at the time. It was also the first time that driver comfort was given more importance by introducing an air-conditioned cabin and power steering to smaller CVs, all in the interest of increased driver comfort. It was not long before the Dost carved its own space and triggered the segment shift from 0-2T to 2- to 3.5 tonnes. The company rolled out other models like the Partner and today the LCV market accounts for 39 percent of sales for Ashok Leyland.
LCVs is a huge market, both domestically and internationally, and is expected to bounce back faster from the current uncertainty. Ashok Leyland believes LCVs will play a major role in its overarching goal to become one of the top 10 global players in the CV industry.
Dheeraj Hinduja, chairman, Ashok Leyland said, “Today marks a milestone for us as we move towards our Vision of being amongst the Top 10 Global CV Makers. The new in-house developed platform is a key part of our long-term LCV strategy aimed at positioning AL as a serious and significant player in the segment. Bada Dost i3 and i4, the first two vehicles being launched on this new platform, along with other current offerings, close the gap in our LCV product portfolio. Our range will now be available in both right-hand-drive and left-hand-drive options, enabling us to look at international markets more aggressively. Plans are also on for the introduction of electric versions in due course.”
Vipin Sondhi, MD, Ashok Leyland added that the, “LCV segment holds huge potential for us. The recovery of the CV industry is being led by this segment in the current market. With Bada Dost, we will now address an important part of this market which has tremendous promise. LCVs is one of our growth businesses accounting for about 40 percent of our sales volume in FY2020, it continues to grow this year as well. With the new, robust Bada Dost product offering, we are sure to expand our family of customers worldwide who are looking for quality and profitability.”
According to Nitin Seth, COO, Ashok Leyland, currently the company has, “570 touch points in India and new ones will be added in the international market. Next 5-6 months we expect the LCV demand to go up.”
The Bada Dost has been engineered and built on a new robust platform suited for all terrains. The LCV, which is powered by an 80hp BS VI engine, is equipped with a five-speed gearbox with cable shift system and tiltable power steering for effortless driving, with an option of AC. It comes with new-age styling and appearance with car-like interiors and has a loading space of 9 feet 8 inches for easy loading and unloading. Other key highlights include ground clearance of 206mm, an LED tail-lamp with protector, reverse parking assist and a 50-litre fuel tank for longer trips and three seats along with a driver seat. Also, the walkthrough cabin and retractable-while-engaged hand brake lever provide more comfort to the driver. The company has around nine patents for the new platform.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar Professional, Nitin Seth, COO, Ashok Leyland, says, “The Bada Dost is like a big brother to the Dost but completely different from one other. The Dost was a JV, and it was never available in LHD. Bada Dost is Ashok Leyland’s own idea and it is the first time you see a C-channel in an LCV. This platform is for global reach and will take us through the next 10 years.”
Seth adds, “It usually takes 36 months to develop a platform but we did it in 24 months. We have invested around Rs 350 crore on the new platform. These are owner-cum-driver driven vehicles. And, that was the reason we gave AC and power steering in the Dost. People felt they could do more trips in a day due to the comfort. In the future, what if there is a driver shortage? If we add to comfort, it adds value to the customers. So, we brought in three approved seats now, which have not been there so far. Also, these can be reclined to act as a bed for the driver. The retractable-while engaged-hand brake also helps along with the comfort. “
The new Bada Dost will be manufactured in the newly installed state-of-the-art, first fully robotic cubing line at Hosur. The LCV will be modular for LHD/ RHD variants, and will have multiple GVW options. It will also be available in diesel, CNG and also electric power, a move which opens up the market for the new LCV.
“As of now, there are two variants of the particular platform – 3.49 T and 2.99 T. This will be launched in phase one and it is just the beginning. Over the next two years, you will see multiple things coming in the platform. Multiple GVW, CNG, EV. In the diesel variant today, we have BS VI. Going forward, we will have Euro 3 and Euro 4 for countries outside India, Euro 5 for Russia and Ukraine market and more. This platform will have a lot of products. Automatic Transmission will also be there. Every 3-4 months, something new will come out of this,” remarks Seth.
The new LCV will be first launched in seven states and Ashok Leyland will be adding new states to the launch plan every few days. The reason for this is that the company has installed a new production line, has new suppliers and it’s an operation that has begun from ground up. Thus ramp up for production, which kicked off in late August, will be slow.
“It is not about bringing two small variants. This is the start of the journey of bringing multiple options. This is becoming very critical to our growth and our vision is to be in the Global Top 10. LCVs play a big role because of the volume itself and the global market. With the help of the Bada Dost, we will bring a lot of LHD business and address the global market,” he adds.
Slowdown and rise
Though the pandemic has slowed down the CV business, with the launch of the Bada Dost, Ashok Leyland is looking at a 4x growth in the LCV segment over the period of two years including exports. The company does not just want to launch a me-too product that is already in the market space. This is something they tried with Dost and succeeded.
“During the downturn, serious customers do not go away. They are very much in the business and if they see the good value they would jump to it. The reason we launch it now is that we feel that serious customers will choose this as it offers more value. It will jump into the value proposition they look for. We should have something unique our competitors do not have. We are sure that the Bada Dost will offer better value in terms of fuel efficiency, comfort and more. This is not moving away from Dost, but a segment that pays you a premium to the existing range of vehicles,” points out Seth.
i-Alert in an LCV
Ashok Leyland’s in-vehicle connectivity and telematics, the i-Alert platform helps customers in vehicle tracking, fleet management, fuel management, geofencing and driver management. The commercial vehicle manufacturer has an uptime solutions centre at Vellivoyalchavadi; this facility and its personnel track all the vehicles that are connected through its solutions.
“Nobody has tried this in an LCV so far. We will be giving this as an add-on at an affordable cost. We think the dealers will be able to convince the customers based on savings they will make with the use of i-Alert. We have this as a part of our bigger trucks. If this clicks, we will be making it mandatory in the LCVs too. At present, we are attaching the box to the vehicle through a circuit. We look forward to the customers to jump in it,” states Nitin.
“Ashok Leyland will no longer be defensive. We will grow by bringing in multiple contemporary products ahead of competitor products. The price would not be an issue as we believe in value. A lot of things have changed now. Our dealerships are like car dealerships. Many think that truck owners do not come for service. But, when you reach them, the story is different. Our service retention is around 64 percent. There are a lot of misconceptions people have about trucks. Our problem with growth was due to limited products. With Bada Dost, everything will go up,” Seth signs off on a very optimistic note.
Read More: Nitin Seth: ‘The idea from the new platform was to go global and also increase the range.'