Friday, April 29, 2011

Tractors rock as farming expands

Manu P Toms, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, April 29, 2011

A rising farm economy is driving tractor sales to new highs. Going by a conservative estimate, it is set to cross half a million unit sales this financial year. The tractor industry foresees a 10 to 15% increase in growth over the record 482,000 units it clocked last fiscal. A host of measures by the government such as loan waiver, increased lending to farm sector and national employment guarantee scheme increased liquidity and tractor sales grew faster in the recent years.
A Standard Chartered report says tractor buyers' dependence on lending has reduced from 90% to 65%.

"Increase in rural income levels, better farm output and good rainfall in the last few years boosted tractor sales. The industry grew by 20% in the last fiscal. That too, on a high base created by the 30% growth in the year before," said Sanjeev Goyle, senior vice president, Mahindra Farm Equipment Sector.

M&M, the industry leader sold 202,000 units, holding 42% market share.

The buoyancy has led to new capacity additions by major industry players, particularly focusing the under-penetrated southern states. M&M's 100,000-capacity Zaheerabad plant will be commissioned in 2012. TAFE increases production. Escorts and Sonalika are opening warehouses and sales centres in south India.

M&M bets big on growing sales of its low-cost small tractor Yuvraj. Escorts launched five new tractors last year while Sonalika commissioned a new factory in Patna.

Another important factor that drove tractor sales is labour shortage caused by the NREGA.

Despite India being the largest tractor market, the penetration levels still remain low at 19 per 1,000 farmers.

Hyundai and Tata follow Maruti to take village roads

Manu P Toms , Hindustan Times
Mumbai, April 10, 2011

Maruti’s success to sell 249,000 cars in rural India has led its rivals Hyundai and Tata Motors to emulate its strategy.

Maruti’s 3,600 rural development sales executives (RDSEs) — each one posted in every taluka in India — together sold more than a fifth of its total sales. Determined to end Maruti’s complete dominance in rural market, Hyundai will now deploy 1,000 sales executives, while Tata Motors will have 210 ‘special Nano dealers’ in small district centres.

Maruti has found a promising rural market for cars, what chief general manager Shashank Srivastava calls “a surprise discovery”, when urban-focused sales approach faced challenges in the recession-hit 2009. It loosely classified geographies beyond the limits of top 100 cities as rural areas and counts sales facilitated by RDSEs posted in those regions as rural sales.

From a mere 9% of its total sales in FY 09 it grew to 16% in FY 10. In FY 11, rural sales accounted for roughly 22% of Maruti’s domestic sales. In volume terms, this conveys an even more ebullient story — from 65,000 units to 139,000 units, which leapt to 249,000 units in the just-ended fiscal.

“Alto and Wagon R are the largest selling models in rural areas,” said Srivastava. Good rainfall, better farm output, growing non-agricultural income, improving infrastructure all contribute to the spurt in car sales in these predominantly agrarian regions.

“For this fiscal, we expect rural market will account for 25% of our total sales,” he said.

Maruti’s closest rival Hyundai also sees a similar trend. The company does not strictly track rural sales. But, it sees that semi-urban and rural sales together now account for 31% of its domestic sales against 29% last fiscal. The company is strengthening its presence in these regions by adding 36 outlets more in semi urban and rural areas.

By 2011 end, Hyundai will have 275 outlets in these regions.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rolls Royce plans a plug-in hybrid

Manu P. Toms, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, February 25, 2011

Close on the heels of announcing its first electric car in super-luxury segment, Rolls Royce said it will come out with a hybrid as well. "Next is a plug-in hybrid. We are working on it. We are entering into discussion with our customers (about a hybrid Rolls)," Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO, Rolls Royce Motor Cars told HT.

Rolls Royce's parent-company BMW has developed ActiveHybrid that combines gasoline engine and electric motor. Rolls could use this technology.

The company's global sales doubled and Indian sales increased nearly seven-fold mainly on the back of the less pricey Ghost (including customs duty, the car costs R2.5 crore in India whereas Rolls Royce Phantom is priced R3.5 crore upwards). When asked if the company is looking at lower-priced models in the wake of Ghost's success, Otvos said "No. Rolls Royce will always remain highly exclusive. We will not go below €200,000. We are not in the direction of pushing volumes".

The entrepreneurial boom that produced many billionaires make India a promising market for Rolls, according to Otvos.

"The youngest Rolls Royce owner happens to be a 24-year old Indian," he said. However, he declined to give details of this customer for privacy reasons. Otvos, in his visit to India will most probably sign up two more dealerships - one in south and another in north.

'Nano misunderstood as a cheap product'

Manu P Toms, Hindustan Times
Geneva, March 02, 2011

Tata Motors CEO & MD Carl Peter Forster spoke to HT about the auto maker's future plans for Jaguar Land Rover in India, China partnership, joint venture with Fiat and small wonder Nano on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show. Excerpts: . What is the road ahead for Jaguar Land Rover in India?
We will start with Freelander hopefully in June. Other Jaguar Land Rover products might follow. We will increase the number of JLR dealerships. We are already in ten cities and we will increase this to 13.

Other luxury car manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi sell 3,000-5,000 units a year in India. Are you anywhere close to these levels?
We have to do a little bit of catch up. We are not in this volume game. They are trying to be number 1 in luxury market and we are not. Luxury market is not run by numbers but the strength of the brand, technology and tradition. And later on volumes will follow.

Lots of things are being talked about your partnership with Fiat in India. It is said you are redrawing your retail strategy...?
We are in the middle of a very open discussion on how we can make things work better and how we can improve volumes. Improving retail sales is part of our discussion. We believe that we are overburdening our dealers with too many different products. At the same time, we want to continue our relation with our good partners. We need to develop a new model over time. Not just retail strategy, everything including product- sharing and part-sharing are discussed.

Have you addressed customer concerns about Nano? A recent survey said customers are least satisfied with Tata cars.
We are not hearing any complaint. People are happy with Nano. If we look into the survey Nano is trailing little bit.

What about Nano sales?
Last month we sold 8,262 units, which is a good growth. I think Nano is misunderstood as a cheap product. The product needs to be rightly communicated in the market. One idea is to showcase Nano as one of the most fuel-efficient cars.

What is the future plan for the electric Indica, which you are launching in the UK?
We will deliver 80 units of Vista EVX to fleet operators in the UK. We will begin very small and gain experience. We will see how the electric power train technology develops. As of now there is no money to be made there. Initially this will be confined to the UK market.

(The writer's trip to Geneva was sponsored by Tata Motors)

Frugal Tata Pixel bound for India too?

Manu P. Toms, Hindustan Times
Geneva, March 02, 2011

The Europe-specific new Nano - Tata Pixel - the concept of which was launched at the Geneva Motor Show may also come to India. The new car may consider the demands of Indian market, Tata group chairman Ratan Tata told HT on the sidelines of the unveiling of this "small city car" at Geneva. Answerin g a question if Tata Pixel will also consider Indian customers' interests he said "It may. But you must always remember this car is still at a concept stage".

Given the 29 km per litre mileage, improved comforts and sophistication the Pixel can be a huge attraction for Indian customers as well.

While unveiling the three metre-long four seater diesel car along with Ratan Tata, Carl Peter Forster, MD and CEO of Tata Motors said the company is planning an electric version of Tata Pixel. "It can one day become an electric city car," he said.

The Pixel is positioned as "a small city car for Europe". Fuel economy and maneuverability are highlighs of the new small car from the Tata stable.

(The writer's trip to Geneva was sponsored by Tata Motors)

SsangYong to strengthen Mahindra's hybrid ride

Manu P Toms, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, March 21, 2011

Mahindra & Mahindra’s acquisition of Korean SUV maker SsangYong will strengthen its electric and hybrid vehicle projects. Both Mahindra and SsangYong have been planning joint product development in the area of alternative fuel technology. ‘‘We have formed two technical teams to align the resear ch and development of both Mahindra & Mahindra and SsangYong in electric vehicle and hybrid technology,’’ Pawan Goenka, president automotive and farm equipment sector, M&M told HT.

SsangYong announced an electric version of its crossover Korando and a hybrid compact SUV at the Geneva Motor Show. ‘‘Just as SsangYong has its own hybrid and electric projects, Mahindra too has made some progress in this field. Mahindra Reva is coming out with a four-seater electric car NXR. Mahindra is developing a hybrid Scorpio,’’ said Goenka.

SsangYong has claimed that its pure electric drive system, run on a high voltage lithium battery pack, will offer a speed up to 150 km per hour and a drive range of 180 km. The company said this would be first seen on the crossover Korando.

SsangYong’s hybrid technology will have a short distance drive up to 60 kms under battery power and a back-up of internal combustion engine for the longer drive. A five-seater vehicle, slightly smaller than Korando, will come with this drive system.

Range Rover Evoque set to hit India in early 2012

Manu P Toms, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, March 23, 2011

The Tatas are all set to bring a smaller and a fuel efficient Land Rover - the Range Rover Evoque - to India by early next year, after its global debut in the middle of this year. About the India entry of the upcoming Evoque, Carl Peter Forster, managing director and CEO, Tata Motors said ''Probably not this year. Probably, early next year.''

The tentative timeframe for the India entry put out by the company puts to rest on speculations that its India launch will be simultaneous with its global launch in mid-2011.

Tata-owned British luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has been working on smaller and fuel-efficient models to meet the toughening emission norm challenges and to increase volume. Range Rover Evoque, a luxury-SUV which aims an ambitious fuel economy of 21 km per litre and 120 g/km CO2 emissions, will be launched in major markets such as UK and US this year.

For JLR globally, a smaller sedan will follow a smaller SUV launch. The details of a smaller Jaguar, competing against Mercedes C Class and BMW 3 series will be launched soon. It is speculated that the car will be called Jaguar XS.

The assembly of Freelander, the launch of Evoque and expansion of dealerships to more than a dozen will help JLR improve its position in the luxury car market. Jaguar Land Rover, which sold around 250 units in India in 2009-10, is trying hard to catch up with established luxury players such as Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi in India.