Panasonic readies connected solutions for Indian PV and two-wheeler industry

by Sricharan R 07 Jan 2021

Panasonic Automotive Systems, whose business field includes in-vehicle infotainment, in-vehicle electronics, automotive mirrors and motorised systems such as automotive batteries, is to up the ante in India, which is seeing huge demand for in-vehicle connectivity. 

The global Tier 1 supplier set up shop in India a decade ago and has been offering specialised components to major OEMs in the Indian automotive industry. Now, Panasonic Automotive Systems India (PASI) is working on new connected solutions designed for safety and comfort devices in passenger vehicles, and also two-wheelers with some leading OEMs. 

Speaking to Autocar Professional, Bhupesh Kanyal, Group Chief and Country Head, Panasonic Automotive Systems India, says: “Since the last decade, we have been realigning our business, processes, and firming our groundwork to establish a strong foothold in the Indian automotive industry. Our first business in India started in August 2010 with Toyota Kirloskar Motor for their 10th-generation premium sedan, the Corolla Altis. Today, we offer our solutions to some of the major automotive players such as Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, Honda Cars India, Renault-Nissan, Isuzu, Hero MotoCorp, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, and India Yamaha Motor.”

PASI focuses on development, manufacture and sale of components and parts like infotainment solutions (audio, video and navigation), sensors, relays, cameras, parking assistance systems, telematics control units, smart entry systems, LED solutions for headlamps and batteries. Its range of solutions falls under three categories: Beyond Comfort, Integrated Safety and Electrification. 

Beyond Comfort caters to vehicle interiors covering cockpits, navigation systems, HUDs, while Integrated Safety aids in safe commuting and reducing traffic accidents. Products like back and corner sensors, interior rearview mirrors, vehicle camera modules, steering angle sensors will be a part of this. 

In the area of electrification, Panasonic is catering to the Electric Vehicle (EV) category in the form of Li-ion batteries, heater devices, and on-board charging systems to name a few. According to the country head, the EVs will see a slow but steady growth in India. However, the penetration of EVs to a significant volume will take some time. PASI is in discussion with some of the top OEMs in India for both passenger cars and two-wheelers and have already developed products for EVs, which will need a slight amount of customisation for India. They will start working on the products to fit the local market once there is a proper demand. 

“There is a big shift happening in consumer preferences globally and India from a comfort point of view. Also, in India, there is a lot of push from regulatory authorities to carmakers on safety and the environment. Considering these situations, a lot of new technologies and products are getting introduced from global markets. The transition of such technologies or trends has already started happening in the form of – navigation systems, reverse parking assistance systems, back cameras, telematics control units, and many more. The good news is the lag/delay in technology introduction from developed countries to India is becoming smaller now. Very soon you will be able to see many new products from Panasonic’s global portfolio in cars manufactured by OEMs in India. Also, we are working on connected solutions for cars and two-wheelers with some major OEMs in India. We are also working on some safety and comfort devices for passenger cars in India,” adds Kanyal. 

According to Kanyal, what differentiates PASI’s products from the sizeable competition is that it offers niche technological products designed and developed to Panasonic’s exacting global standards. “In management terms, we function in ‘a blue-ocean’ where we offer niche technological offerings. Driven by our global vision – a better life, a better world – all our efforts, and responsibilities are directed towards our valued customers and society,” says Bhupesh.

From a humble beginning consisting of a small five-member team, the company has come a long way with significant growth in sales, an increase in employee headcount, and expanding its geographical presence. Today, they are a fully functional business unit with dedicated sales, manufacturing, engineering, service, and finance functions. In the next five-year mid-term plan, PASI plans to focus mainly on new technological products having less competition with reasonable profits. “Consumers can expect new technologies and products in the Indian market through our partner OEMs,” he adds.  

Going forward, by utilising its global portfolio of futuristic products and leveraging relationships with almost all the carmakers, PASI plans to expand its product portfolio in all segments in the Indian market. “We are working strategically to expand our portfolio of products and customers for steady growth and increased market share. PASI is committed to India and will keep working to enhance the experience of Indian automotive consumers on basic principles of safety, comfort, and environment,” he concludes. 

Q&A: Bhupesh Kanyal, Group Chief and Country Head, Panasonic Automotive Systems India

With the potential increase of EVs in India, what new products are you looking to introduce?
EVs no doubt will be the future of automotive in India as well. I believe that this decade (2020-2030) will see the slow but steady growth of EVs to create a future roadmap of EVs in India. However, the penetration of EVs to a significant volume will take some time. We are in discussion with some of the top OEMs in India for both passenger cars and two-wheelers.

We have already developed proven products for EVs, which will need a slight amount of customisation for India. Once the commitment to demand and cost factors are agreed upon, we will start working on the products to fit for the Indian market. The current product portfolio includes lithium-ion cells and battery packs, onboard chargers, charging cables, DC compressors, relays, and many more.

Every vehicle is now a computer on wheels. How are you looking at this and will safety be an issue?
There is a lot of electronics in our vehicles today and it is going to be more significant in the coming years with digitisation and connectivity entering our day to day life. With EVs and autonomous vehicles in the near future, it is going to be even bigger. These devices make the vehicle far safer for driving compared to traditional electromechanical devices and systems.

However, when we talk about safety from the point of cyber-attack (hacking) on the vehicle system from the external network, it is becoming more vulnerable due to increased electronics. It is important for carmakers to continue finding ways to improve cybersecurity. Panasonic also has done a lot of research and development on the cybersecurity of vehicles.

What system do you have for autonomous vehicles? Do you think it is possible to be autonomous in India?
Panasonic has cameras, sensors, ECUs, and many other devices for autonomous vehicles. We have already showcased our autonomous vehicles technology capability at CES since the past two years. There’s nothing that cannot be done using technology today. Autonomous vehicles in India are possible. But before we talk about autonomous vehicles in India, it is important to improve the infrastructure and improve the driving habits.

What is the level of localisation at your India facility?
We have a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant at Jhajjar, Haryana where we manufacture sensors and devices. The localisation ratio is different from product to product. For example, in certain thermistors, it is more than 80 percent but in some highly electronic parts, it may be as low as 15 percent. Also, we do have a team of engineers in India for supporting the design and development of products for OEMs in India.

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