Hero MotoCorp gets ready for electric foray with Vida
The company will launch its first scooter offerings -- Vida V1 Plus and Vida V1 Pro.
As Hero MotoCorp prepares to officially announce its presence in electric scooters with the unveil of its first offerings, Vida V1 Plus and Vida V1 Pro, today at the Global Centre for Innovation and Technology (CIT) in Jaipur, the question that may will be asked is if the company will be able to replicate, in the coming decade, the success of its formidable Splendor brand which has held its own in a competitive ICE market even after it parted ways with its Japanese partner, Honda.
Sources have indicated that brand conceptualisation, development of the prototypes and roll out of Vida, which means life in Spanish, is being handled exclusively by a new division that chairman Pawan Munjal, has personally entrusted this responsibility to.
The company’s foray into scooters marks the third OEM in the ICE space to foray into the segment after TVS and Bajaj Auto. The unveil was slated for July but plans were realigned due to the semiconductor shortage.
Company officials and dealers who spoke to Autocar Professional have indicated that unlike other brands who rushed in the race to be the first and have burned their fingers what with fire incidents, Hero MotoCorp has gone all out to ensure that it faces no such issues post-launch.
Keeping this in mind, Hero MotoCorp’s new mobility division is said to have hired the best of the talent from within the EV space. Its network strategy, geographical footprint, and product range is kept tightly under wraps. What is certainly known is the retail footprint of the EV brand will leverage Hero's existing dealer network.
The company has also invited its dealers for a tour of its technology centre at the CIT facility, which the automaker has set up at an investment of Rs 616 crore. The CIT facility employs about 1,150 engineers and houses R&D under one roof including self-sufficient facilities for new product design, prototype manufacturing, testing, and validation. The CIT also boasts of world-class test tracks within the campus that have been used for testing new products as well as for race training. The 16km test track has 45 different surfaces to simulate real-world road conditions, both Indian and global, including off-road test tracks.
Hero MotoCorp’s final production-ready range that will be on show tomorrow has gone through the rigours of Hero’s Tech Centre Germany (TCG) near Munich where global experts and engineers have been working overtime on the design and development of the range.
The Vida V1 range is expected to be a high-speed scooter with speeds over 50 km/h and a range of about 100+. In the run up to the festive season, one can expect the company to kick off a high-powered campaign to woo buyers who have had to cope with a slew of challenges including high fuel prices, and who are looking to electric options to manage cost of ownership. The company is also keen to offer customers a credible choice and that perhaps explains the positioning of Vida as India’s ‘not first” electric scooter.
Brand marketing expert Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc said the need now is to offer robust mobility solutions as the mass market products in the Rs 60,000 to Rs 90,000 product range are being bought in UP, Bihar, and Rajasthan, where Hero MotoCorp has lost marketshare to Honda in its ICE range. “Product superiority is the only USP left in this highly cluttered space," Bijoor said.
Hero MotoCorp has already stitched up a few global alliances with the recent one being with the Gogoro network for its swappable battery tie-ups. Closer home, it has partnered with Bharat Petroleum for setting up fast charging and battery swapping stations across India. The company’s technology team will also have to figure out in due course, the revised battery norms that will be implemented in a phased manner; several battery experts and OEMs have gone on record for the need to make in-depth changes in existing battery designs. Other norms regarding the printing of manufacturing details on each cell also have been disputed by OEMs and battery makers.
It has also been reliably learnt that the company has filed patents for names like Vida, Vida MotoCorp, Vida EV, Vida Electric, Vida Scooters, and Vida motorcycles as brand names.
On a lighter note, tomorrow's launch is being conducted in total secrecy. Access to the venue is through a unique QR code which is non-transferable as it's linked to individual government ID identification to ensure that only mandated persons get to see the final unveil.
The coming decade will see new challenges crop up in India’s two-wheeler space largely in the form of electrification. It remains to be seen how market dynamics change as customers are wooed with more choices in the electric space even as it can be argued that the internal combustion engine is going to be around for a while, and cannot be confined to history.
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