As the global electric mobility megatrend, among others, gains traction, the collaboration route is increasingly being taken by automotive companies worldwide as a strategy to achieve success. For the same reason, Mahindra & Mahindra and Ashok Leyland could come together for the common goal of success in electric mobility, if the collaborative mindset of their leaders lead to joining forces between their organisations.
There's a valid argument behind it. For electric vehicles (EV) to become commercially viable, the EV industry needs to have scale. "If everybody starts doing things on their own, we will end up with sub-scale. It's not going to benefit anybody," Dr Pawan Goenka, MD, Mahindra & Mahindra and chairman, Mahindra Electric, told Autocar Professional at a press conference on Friday.
On November 4, Dheeraj Hinduja, chairman, Ashok Leyland had said, "We are quite open to the idea of working with others on electric vehicles". Ashok Leyland's 'Circuit', launched about three years ago, claims to be India's first locally made electric bus. The OEM then partnered with Sun Mobility to launch the 'Circuit S', an electric bus powered by the latter's swappable Smart Battery technology, in February 2018.
Hinduja says, "Although we have developed a product on our own, it will keep evolving. The rate at which battery costs have come down has been very significant and its capacity is also increasing. Unless there's some new technology someone is going to offer or bring in, or we can co-develop, I don't think we have done everything to make sure that we're very much independent and self-reliant in our technologies." Ashok Leyland is working on a new bus platform designed exclusively for electrification.
It is to be noted that Ashok Leyland-owned British bus maker Optare also manufactures electric buses. A 26 percent stake buy in Optare over six years ago, which later was hiked to 98.3 percent, was in a way the Indian OEM's entry to electric mobility. Mahindra & Mahindra started its electric mobility journey in May 2010 with a majority stake acquisition in Bengaluru-based Reva Electric Car Company, which is now called Mahindra Electric Mobility. The common link between Mahindra Electric and Ashok Leyland, other than their strong interest in electric mobility, is Chetan Maini. The Bengaluru-based technocrat was the founder of Reva, and is now the co-founder and vice-chairman of Sun Mobility.
Consolidation in an era of disruption
Though both Ashok Leyland and Mahindra & Mahindra have expressed clear intentions of partnership in the area of electric mobility, none has said that it will be between the two. At the same time, with both having different sets of value, it won't be surprising if they do come together.
Dr Goenka says, "It's important that major players come together and have alliances and pool resources for the good of the future of electric vehicles in India. And there's enough for everybody in this game because it's a game that's just starting." The technocrat MD is open to any form of partnership that "makes a commercial sense for the two parties and create a much better ecosystem for EVs in India". His offer is also aimed at suppliers.
With the new-age automotive/mobility world getting increasingly collaborative, it will be interesting to see if electric mobility triggers collaboration between major Indian companies, a practice that's not common among local players, yet.
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