Yamaha Motor Corp has a dedicated team at Japan headquarters working on an all-new electric vehicle platform for India and other global markets.
“In fact, we have been manufacturing EV models in Taiwan for the last two years in association with Gogoro. So, the technology and the expertise to develop and manufacture EV models is already in place,” Motofumi Shitara, Chairman, Yamaha Motor India Group of Companies told Autocar Professional in a recent interview.
“The Fascino 125 Fi Hybrid is Yamaha’s first step towards entering the EV space in the Indian market, on a small note,” he added while referring to the scooter that was recently launched. It is “just one of many technological advancements achieved in the field of electric mobility by Yamaha, which we plan to introduce in the Indian market over time”.
Customer acceptance and infra readiness in India critical
Yet, there are some ground realities to reckon with before electric mobility can truly take off with a bang in India. As Shitara cautioned, the company is “contemplating on factors like pricing, performance, and infrastructure before we roll out any products for the Indian market”.
This is only logical since the success of EVs “solely depends” on the acceptance of customers at large, which in turn is “only possible with proper availability of infrastructure, charging stations, battery production and swapping infrastructure”.
In Shitara’s view, there are bigger challenges related to investments which cannot be addressed unless the “Indian government lays down a clear roadmap” and a stable policy.
“Having said that we will continuously progress with globally competitive research and development activities and once all the aforementioned factors are addressed by the government, we will introduce such technologies for our customers in India at a large scale,” he added.
The underlying message from the Yamaha India chairman is that work on electric is progressing at a serious pace back at headquarters. The fact that an all-new platform is being readied is also an acknowledgment of the importance of India which is hardly surprising given that it is the world’s largest two-wheeler market with annual production of 20 million units.
And even while Yamaha has to contend with strong competition in the form of Hero, Honda, Bajaj and TVS, it is doubtless keen on increasing its market share. This is where new opportunities like electric will give the company an opportunity to showcase its strengths and take on strong local players like Bajaj and TVS.
It will also be interesting to see if the electric foray will involve some kind of collaboration with Honda at the backend. The former foes-turned-friends recently buried the hatchet and decided to team up for joint manufacture of small scooters in Japan. There is no telling if this will extend to electric mobility where even the likes of Kawasaki and Suzuki may participate as a Japanese consortium for markets like India.
Banking on premium power
According to Shitara, Yamaha holds a strong position in India’s premium space with 19 percent market share. “This has been due to the strategically planned product portfolio designed to cater to the new and experienced riders alike. Yamaha’s target customers are the young Indians, whose priority is to find their own identity and riding style along with exciting performance,” he said.
Shitara said the Indian economy and the automobile sector will be back to normal once the whole country is vaccinated. “The large-scale vaccination drive run by the government authorities and the corporates will surely play a vital role in the recovery,” he added.
According to him, the auto sector will witness growth gradually once the festival season begins. “If you compare this year with 2020, you will observe that in 2021, state governments have been directing lockdowns with a clear time frame which has helped companies plan and channel their economic activities in a better way,” explained Shitara.
From his point of view, India is a very important market for Yamaha and the company is keen to make the most of every opportunity here. “In terms of shipping out components and vehicles to other parts of the world, we would want India to play a bigger role in the coming years. We have a strong R&D function here and a good collaboration with the suppliers who understand our requirements and who are open to innovation,” said Shitara.
At present, the Indian operations ship out between 25 and 30 percent of total production to Latin America, Africa, and South Asia. “Our products are well accepted in these countries and the demand for them is growing year by year,” he concluded.