Auto Expo 2020: Special Interview: Vinay Pathak, Vice-President and Product Line Head, Small Commercial Vehicle, Tata Motors
Published On Feb 12, 2020
Trucksdekho talks to Vinay Pathak to understand the performance of the small commercial vehicle segment, the changing preference of customers and how the company is working to gain more market share in the pickup segment.
What is your outlook on the market? Despite the overall CV market facing a tough time, the LCVs are doing reasonably better?
Speaking on the specific segment of the LCV, which is up to 3.5T, starting from the Ace range of compact trucks to Yodha pickup which is basically categorised as small commercial vehicles (SCV). In the last two quarters, the retail demand is sustaining, and we have not seen any significant drop. I feel the impact on the volume is due to the adjustment of inventory at the dealership as everyone wants to exhaust the BSIV stock before 31st March. Having said that, the retail demand continues to be robust for Tata Motors. Even for the industry, we haven’t noticed a considerable drop.
What are the factors helping to grow the small commercial vehicle sector in India?
To understand the sales trends of SCVs what we monitor is not the GDP but look at the consumption growth. The spending on consumption is far more important, and we see the consumption story of India especially in the urban side is still quite strong, whereas rural markets have recorded some dip.
This is where the last-mile or first-mile vehicles are being used in small commercial vehicles and the overall SCV business has been fine for us. Going ahead even in the BSVI regime we believe the SCV segment will grow substantially. One of the reasons is the liquidity issue in the system which is now being getting addressed with several projects taking off and the money coming back into the hands of the people. This will further help for the growth of the SCV segment.
Let’s talk about Tata Motors SCV product strategy, at present, you have Ace range of compact trucks, the new Intra and Yodha. Can you detail the strategy around these key products?
Considering the next 1-2 years, the BSVI transition will bring the biggest change in the SCV segment. Our sense is the freight rates will remain the same, the ability of the customer to still make the same money-both the drivers’ owners and the first-time buyers- it is extremely important and that the customer's costs per kilometre goes down. What we have attempted is value enhancement to the customers to off-sets the price increases due to BSVI transition. The target for us is to see how our customer earns more in BSVI than what she/he was earning in BSIV.
One of the key changes we are expecting is that the Ace portfolio where today, 97 percent of vehicles are diesel engines and the remaining are CNG. With the BSVI technology, the prices of diesel vehicles will go up considerably, and therefore, alternate fuel vehicles like petrol will be far more economical to own and run for the customers. This is the reason we have bought Ace Gold petrol at the Auto Expo. We also expect the focus of the government on increasing gas distribution across the country which is turn will help higher CNG vehicle sales.
Do you expect the Ace range of compact truck will see further expansion?
I would say, the Ace segment is an evolving one and so are the needs of the customers also evolving. The customers are now looking at a more comfortable vehicle in this segment. To address growing customer needs, Intra is the right vehicle with style, comfort, driveability and design, etc. We have noticed the customer is looking to upgrade his preference, and this is one segmentation within the Ace family of trucks where we are giving a better product.
Secondly, as I said earlier, depending upon the geography and fuel choice of the customer. Lastly, we expect the rural economy to grow in terms of consumption and, therefore, the ability of vehicles to run better in rural infrastructure. This segment has the potential to offer a huge growth for the Ace segment of the vehicles.
How is Intra doing for Tata Motors? Do you see the customer acceptance for this new platform?
We have sold over 12,000 Intra across India, and we call back these customers everyone month to understand the feedback after using the vehicle. Till date, we have met with over 5000 such customers, and 87 percent of them are extremely happy with the performance of this vehicle. This is a huge brand acceptance and endorsement for us; thus making us satisfied with the growth and progress made by Intra.
We know this segment is evolving very fast. This means, there is a middle segment that is emerging between Ace and Pickups. Intra is placed exactly in this emerging segment; therefore, we expect natural growth for Intra as well as an inter-segment shift, which is going to explode. We have now bought the Intra V30 as part of the expansion of our Intra range, V30 comes with a 1.5-liter engine with the latest technology BSVI engine, offering bigger tyres, the load body has been extended.
Now shift the focus on Yodha. What is the work currently underway to improve the performance of Tata Motors in this important segment?
We are getting a lot of customer feedback on Yodha on what we can do to improve the product. We have taken all the feedback and put together in the facelift that we are showcasing at the Auto Expo.
We see the profile of pickup customers is more conservative with a focus on safety, vehicle support, but has lower risk-taking ability. Therefore, when the customer looking to buy a pickup the tendency to try new products is much lesser than in another segment like Intra. We are also beginning to understand the customer segment better and looking to engage with them more aggressively.
The competition in this segment has a dominating position and we know it’s a tough task, but we are committed to improving our performance. Yodha is a good product and performs exceedingly well in the overload segment too and our 4x4 Yodha is highly popular among customers. In the facelift Yodha, we have bought several changes in the products including much better-refined engine 2.2 liter which also goes into Hexa and Safari passenger vehicles. This will enhance engine performance, drivability, new features, etc. We see the product is far better; the only thing is we need to put up a lot of work on the ground to understand the customer better and improve the sales process.
Lastly, considering the prices of diesel engines are going up in the new emission regime. What is the strategy of Tata Motors in the BSVI era?
We already have a range of engines developed in our passenger vehicle division. On our aggregate strategy, we are comfortable in our engines department, both on petrol and diesel variant. We are taking advantage of building synergy between PV and SCV business. We have all the options available for us and confident that our powertrain will be best in the SCV segment in the industry.
Based on the learning from our PV segment and knowing and understanding the customer better on the CV side, it translates to handling the BSVIregime better. Our SCV range in BSVI is one of the best and our team has done a great job, we are confident of our products and have higher aspiration on market share in SCVs, and pretty sure to achieve our goals.