CV Magazine is India’s premium magazine dedicated to the truck and bus industry and is now in the sixth year. The Award Ceremony along with a panel discussion was attended by almost all key leaders from the CV industry in India. The Volvo 7400XL city bus, which was introduced at the Auto Expo 2012, is today the first multi-axle city bus in the country, promising to help fleet operators to improve across all key parameters – transport economy, emissions, and its ability to help de-congest cities.
Among the various products nominated in this category was the Volvo 9400PX Coach.
The award was accepted by Manish Sahi, Managing Director, Volvo Buses in India. “Volvo Buses has led the change in the bus industry in India. Over the years, we have introduced several technologies that have helped improve the bus travel experience for passengers as also the experience for the drivers. This award endorses that we are on the right path and our products are designed for the customers here. We will continue to build the momentum as has already been outlined,” said Manish Sahi.
The Volvo 7400XL is India’s first multi-axle bus with a steered axle. At 14.5m, it is India’s first city bus ready to support efficient mass bus-based transport systems to move more people, with fewer buses, quicker & with less resource utilisation.
Volvo 7400XL can carry significantly more passsengers and as a result improve upon fuel, emissions and road space consumption by as much as 30%. The savings are profound. Manoeuvrability in the city is tackled by the steered tag-axle allowing the bus to take on tight roads and turns of a city.
CV Award panel discussion – Volvo credits progress to the changing customers and passengers of India
The change process is irreversible echoed the views of the heads of all major commercial vehicle makers during a panel discussion attended by stalwarts of the industry. Akash Passey, Senior Vice President, Business Region International, joined a one-hour lively discussion along with the business heads from Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, AMW, Apollo Tyres and Frost & Sullivan.
The discussion points ranged from the prospects of the industry to subjects including the emergence of the middle segment, adaption of modern technologies, bottlenecks to change, modular engineering, customer behaviour, chassis versus complete buses, global & local examples, and also comparing front engines to rear engines.
Discussing, what was the biggest change that the industry has witnessed, Akash Passey said, “The biggest change we see since we started from scratch till today is that passengers and customers have come to understand that they can ‘demand’ and are able to clearly articulate their needs. India is an aspirational society, like China, and this cuts across all strata.”
An issue that almost each panelist confirmed was the fact that India offers a diverse demand, where the need for a variety of solutions is essential and where there is enough space for all. So, even as the medium segment develops, the current low and top segments will continue into the future. Akash highlighted the fact that China already is operating with over 70 players in the commercial vehicle space and continues to grow.
Another topic that found unanimous agreement was the need to scrap old vehicles. This of course, is tough in India, considering the fact that it is hard to bring together the livelihood demands of single-vehicle owners, who comprise the majority, to agree to this proposal. “Who will bear the cost of this motion?” was the moot question posed. But it was clear that while this decision was being deferred, the overall demand base of the country is being artificially suppressed. It also questioned the need for the evolving emission norms, because the number of vehicles that were old and running, and getting even older were just too many on the road.
Everyone also agreed that irrespective of the pace of adopting new technologies or the rise of segments, it was clear that as long as it creates value for the customer it will make sense. This,even as many expressed concerns over the highly price conscious Indian customers.
This is where Volvo was brought in as example, to explain how it managed to sell such high-priced vehicles, with absolutely new concepts and technologies and succeeded in bringing customers on their side. This was significant especially with prevailing service & support concerns. Akash said, “We started with a clean slate, addressing customers who were used to traditional vehicles, practices and buying behavior. We had to show the customer that it made good business sense. Traditionally, customers are a family business, where one brother ran the revenue side of the business and the other managed the fleet maintenance. We had to show by example to our customers that with a Volvo you do not need a service center every 50-100km. It is a new paradigm, both in reliability, performance and the way we deploy it. That is why bringing the best drivers behind the wheels and demonstrating actual performance was essential.”
Another interesting point was raised highlighting the fact that the variety of solutions the industry must cater to: CNG, diesel, hybrids and other alternatives…one could well witness modularity in the power train in itself. Of course, it was clear to all that with changes in technologies, much of what we expect as current solutions could dramatically change in the future. So, there is no single solution that one can assure.
Akash highlighted that, “It is often the trucks business and platforms that dictate the choice in bus engineering, as a way to be more cost-effective. For the bus business is indeed a smaller volume, even as the customers demand far more customization in a bus than for a truck. But again, it’s the solution that makes most sense to the customer and which will pay maximum dividends.”
That the economy is moving forward was another clear projection, considering a good performance in the last two years in the commercial vehicle industry. While the leaders showed concern on the high interest rates, rising inflation, and weak currency, there continued to remain a sense of cautious optimism.
“The pace of progress can be affected as we see economic cycles. However, over the long-term India is here to change. It is an aspirational society that has already switched to latest solutions across all frontiers – from cars, two-wheelers to white goods. The CV industry is the last bastion of change and in the next 8-10 years I expect to see change akin to other sectors here,” said Akash.
It’s clear with the plethora of new products; each trying to progress beyond traditional trucks and buses, and the Indian Industry is working towards a future. While not everyone can confirm how fast and how deep the change will be, it was clear that there is no turning back in investing for the future.
“India and China is where the CV industry will be operated from in the coming future,” mentioned Akash and everyone who would play a part in India, agreed.
2nd May, 2012
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