It was not too long ago when homegrown Tier 1 player in India's automotive components space, Sandhar Technologies inked a technical pact with Taiwanese major Whetron Electronics Company in 2017, eyeing to tap the increasing content of auto electronics in vehicles with the rapid advancement in automotive technology.
The relationship soon transformed into a 50:50 joint venture with both parties agreeing to invest in local development of new technologies as well as set up facilities in the country to cater to the potentially large volumes that India would offer with its rising vehicle parc.
Taking a major step in its journey, Sandhar-Whetron today inaugurated its first facility for the assembly and testing of rear parking assistance system (RPAS), which was made mandatory under the AIS-145 regulations for all new passenger vehicle models in India in July 2019. The plant is situated adjacent to the existing Sandhar Automotive factory in Dhumaspur, near Gurgaon.
While it was slated to commence production ahead of the regulations kicking, it could only do it now. According to Jayant Davar, founder, co-chairman and managing director, Sandhar Technologies, "Today, we commence SOP at Sandhar-Whetron. We have and we haven't lost opportunity by not beginning supplies from July last year. This is because initially most OEMs wanted to import these products, validate them and then modify them according to the needs of the Indian market."
Safety the top priority
The company has begun with rear parking sensors for the initial phase, and Sandhar-Whetron aims to bring a host of safety-related and other electronic products on offer in Whetron's portfolio globally, and foresees their application in the Indian automotive sector in due course of time as road and vehicle safety increasingly becomes a top agenda for the Indian market.
While its Ultrasonic portfolio includes parking sensors, semi-automatic parking sensors, automatic parking sensors and auto-electronic braking sensors, camera range will include rear-view camera, AVM, lane-departure camera, driver monitoring camera and driver rearview camera.
It also plans to bring wireless functionality components such as wireless chargers for mobile phones, rear-kick sensors and passive-entry passive-start, and eventually bring radar-based products for applications such as blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alerts.
With Whetron being a global supplier to Honda and Toyota, Sandhar-Whetron aims to leverage the existing relations to grow its new business in India as well.
According to Steven Chiang, president, Whetron Electronics Company, "India is going to be the third largest PV market in the world and customers are looking for products which promote safety at a reasonable price. Sandhar-Whetron can manufacture high-quality products and supply them to the Indian market."
Moreover, while it hasn't yet worked with Maruti, Sandhar aims to get India's largest carmaker on-board with the robust new portfolio of auto electronics products. Initial supplies will begin to SML Isuzu from middle of March and to Honda Cars India from May as a running change for one of its models, possibly the all-new Honda City which is slated to be launched in April. The company might also consider venturing into the aftermarket with these products.
With sensor assembly and functional testing, and assembly of ECUs for RPAS and their testing being done at the new facility in Gurgaon, Sandhar-Whetron eyes initial volumes to be in the range of 300,000 car sets, eventually scaling up to 2.2 million units over the next two- to- two-and-a-half years. It also aims to localise the PCBs, the major cost component in these electronic products.
"We look at the larger purpose of our products offering safety for the end user. We aim to grow from strength-to-strength with Whetron Electronics.We are convinced that our partnership will reap benefits," said Davar.
Sandhar-Whetron has projected the total cost of the project to be Rs 150 crore which would be invested over the next three years into setting up different assembly lines for all of these products.