Launched earlier this year in January, the Ather 450X from Bangalore-based electric two-wheeler start-up Ather Energy will finally start getting delivered to customers beginning Diwali next month.
In a virtual press conference held today, Tarun Mehta, CEO, Ather Energy, announced that the company will be opening the window for payment completion to customers who have already pre-booked the scooter and will commence deliveries by Diwali that is slated for mid-November.
Relaying another update regarding the battery subscription model it announced at the launch of the 450X, Mehta also said that the company has been tracking customer feedback and response to the model and found that there has been a reluctance to perennial subscription. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated customer resistance to partial ownership while also reducing the risk appetite of its financial partners, aiding the subscription plans. The lack in clarity in the recent government policy was another factor that Ather Energy claims pushed it to “pause” its battery subscription model and rather offer the scooter for a flat price of Rs 159,000 ex-showroom, inclusive of FAME-II subsidy.
Covid-19 impact and actions
Ather Energy, which had announced plans to expand to eight more cities in 2020 outside of Bangalore and Chennai where it already had a presence, has seen Covid-19 impacting its business and delaying timelines.
“Initially due to the lock-down, the supply chain was impacted with stretched timelines for sourcing all components. Secondly, we faced reluctance from our financial partners in trying new models due to the significantly-decreased risk appetite,” said Mehta.
“In terms of groundwork, opening up of experience centres in the new cities, onboarding new dealer partners and identifying charging infrastructure locations along with new development work have all been taking longer time due to the outbreak of the pandemic,” he added.
However, the company took a conscious call to prioritise deliveries of the 450X, resolve post-ownership complaints of existing and new customers as well as introducing multiple financing options such as lease and subscription for ease of acquisition.
New leasing options
The company announced a new lease plan wherein customers can take home their Ather scooter at a minimum down payment of Rs 25,000 or a maximum of Rs 60,000. Monthly rentals inclusive of routine service and insurance start at Rs 3,900 and the customer can exit anytime after one year or have the option of retaining or surrendering the vehicle at the end of three years. As an introductory offer, it announced a no-retainer fee at the end of three years for initial lot of customers opting the lease plan.
Ather Energy has partnered with Bangalore-based Autovert, an electric automotive financing firm for its leasing model.
As an industry-first option, the company also announced an assured buyback scheme on both its Ather 450X and 450 Plus models. While the former will be brought back for a maximum of Rs 85,000 at the end of three years, the latter will fetch its owner Rs 75,000. Ather Energy, however, has put a maximum limit on the mileage at 30,000km.
Rs 9,000 price cut; subscriptions enhanced
Ather Energy also announced a 6 percent reduction in the price of the Ather 450 Plus which will now retail at Rs 139,990 ex-showroom, inclusive of FAME-II subsidy.
In order to help customers to join the EV bandwagon, the company has tied up with new financial partners - IDFC and HFCL – the two NBFCs which have been brought on board to also offer a higher loan amount for Ather scooters. These NBFCs will offer finance facilities to customers in all new markets including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune that it launches in by end-FY2021.
Ather has also improvised its subscription plans that have been revised and made more flexible in order to match the usage of the consumer. The plans now offer four independent packs that the customer can choose from based on their usage, and will now start from Rs 125 per month. These include Ather Connect Lite (for all basic connected features), Ather Connect Pro, Ather Service Lite (periodic maintenance, RSA and labour) and Ather Service Pro (premium service experience).
To enter Delhi by November-December
While it has admitted that there have been delays in launching to its prospective markets, Ather Energy is still bullish about getting into the national capital where recently the State government also announced its alluring Delhi EV Policy.
The company states that it will introduce its scooters in the city by Diwali. “The Delhi EV policy makes our product very much lucrative, and we are absolutely excited to launch Ather products in the national capital,” said Ravneet Phokela, chief business officer, Ather Energy.
Meanwhile, the company will continue expanding its charging infrastructure network and would add 135-140 public charging points, Ather Grid, and continue to offer free charging to customers at th se stations until March 2021.
"From our perspective, the pandemic hasn’t pushed us to make any big changes in our plans. While we had some disruptions at our partners and suppliers end, which pushed our plans by two-three months, but also allowed us to reassess our situation and be even more aggressive for the future," Phokela said.
"We will end FY2021 with 15-16 cities and we are looking to add around 25 cities on top of that next year," he added.
The company will also see its new 50,000-unit annual capacity plant in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, going on stream by December 2020.
Exports on the cards
As regards exports, the company updated that it has got a lot of inbound interest and was in fairly mature stages of discussion with customers in South East Asia, Europe and Latin America before the pandemic hit, but while the exports will happen they have been delayed and what would have happened in the next 12 months, would now take 24 months. "It is very much on the cards," Phokela concluded.
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