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Automakers seek delays, exemptions to planned new rules for parts: Sources

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NEW DELHI: Foreign automakers are seeking delays and exemptions to planned new quality rules for imported auto parts, arguing the regulations will increase costs, hurt sales and disrupt supply chains, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to reduce imports to boost local manufacturing to make India more self-sufficient and enable it to play a bigger role in the global supply chain. That said, the move is seen mainly aimed at slashing the amount of lower-quality imports from China.
“There is short term pain but there is long term gain,” commerce minister Piyush Goyal told an auto convention last week, saying India has become a dumping ground for low-quality goods by not having standards similar to other countries.
New rules mandating stricter quality checks have been flagged in stages for various auto parts since early this year and tighter regulations for wheel rims could be introduced as soon as October, according to a draft government notice.
All automakers will have to comply, but foreign premium brands such as Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi will suffer most as they have the highest ratio of imported parts, four auto executives told Reuters.
“It’s just an additional compliance burden and will not lead to higher local production because the volumes for luxury are too small to achieve economies of scale,” said one of the executives.
The sources declined to be identified, citing sensitive negotiations with the government.
Luxury carmakers account for less than 1% of India’s annual passenger car sales in terms of volume although they contribute roughly 10% in terms of revenue.
Executives from premium German brands as well as Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp have held several rounds of talks with government officials in recent weeks, sources said.
Martin Schwenk, head of Mercedes-Benz India, said in a statement to Reuters that additional requirements “will make low volume business unviable”. His company is requesting a “reasonable time line for mid to long term implementation, and exemptions for low volume manufacturers in the short-term.”
Volkswagen Group’s India unit also said in a statement that for premium vehicles it was not possible to localise a “majority of components or spares as the total size of market is marginal.”
Other automakers named in this article did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Automakers are also lobbying through the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) which sources say is seeking up to a year to comply with the rules for higher volume vehicles where parts can be sourced locally.
The industry body is also seeking exemptions for low volume cars such as luxury models and for parts which automakers directly import as opposed to parts imported by trading companies and by vendors in the after-sales market, the sources said.
Mercedes’ Schwenk said the company had addressed its concerns through SIAM to relevant authorities and was “hopeful of a positive outcome”.
In addition to those lobbying efforts, Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW also held a meeting with the German ambassador in New Delhi in July to apprise him of the issue, sources said.
UNWELCOME COMPLEXITY
The draft government notice for wheel rims calls for new rules to go into effect from Oct. 1 and includes a requirement that there be an audit of the plant where the rims are made. That would be difficult with current travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, sources said.
It was not clear when the draft notice might be finalised.
To receive a shipment of imported cars or knocked-down car kits an order needs to be placed with global headquarters at least four months in advance, executives at two automakers said.
“If there is no clarity, the headquarters will not take new orders and sales will suffer,” said one of the executives.
From April 1, 2021 similar rules will apply to windshields and other safety glass. In June, India also made it mandatory for companies to get a licence to import certain types of tyres.
“This is against every tenet of ease of doing business,” said a senior auto executive, noting the new rules come at a time when the pandemic has hit revenue and demand, and could discourage further investment in India.
“Much more than the cost it is the complexity which affects the willingness of global companies to continue selling affected car models in India,” the executive said.

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Actively scouting for a partner for passenger vehicle business: Tata Motors

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New Delhi: Tata Motors is actively scouting for a partner for its passenger vehicle business in order to be ready for growth in the next decade which would see huge investments going into new technologies, regulations, according to a top company official. The auto major is looking for collaboration even as the process to carve out passenger vehicle (PV) business as a separate standalone unit gathers steam.

Earlier this year, the auto major’s board had approved to form a separate entity which would house the PV business, including the EV vertical, by transferring relevant assets, IPs and employees directly relatable to the vertical for it to be fully functional on a standalone basis.

“The whole purpose of subsidiarisation is to actively look for a partner because this is a reality for all of us that a collaboration can unleash a bigger potential in the next decade which is going to see significant investments in new technologies and regulations,” Tata Motors President Passenger Vehicles Business Unit (PVBU) Shailesh Chandra told in an interview.

The collaboration would also help in reducing product lifecycles and enhance new product launch intensity, he added.

“All this requires huge investments and agility is also the key. So this is something which we are actively looking into,” Chandra said.

He noted that while the subsidiarisation process is on, the company is alongside “actively looking for a partner” to create assets and capabilities with a win-win situation for both.

When asked about the timelines for both the initiatives, Chandra noted: “There are no specific timelines..as far as subsidiarisation process is concerned, converting the business into a separate legal entity, we would like to accelerate in a year and as far as partner is concerned it is an active work which we will continue to work on.”

On the company’s performance in the PV segment, Chandra said that despite lockdown Tata Motors posted double digit growth during the first half of this fiscal.

“This has resulted in a market share of 7.9 per cent in the passenger vehicle segment..the company’s product range has been appreciated for safety and pleasure of driving,” he said.

Chandra said the PV segment was witnessing growth revival as sales grew by 18 per cent in the July-September quarter this fiscal.

“A big part of it is pent up demand which has been a big factor for the growth. There was 20 per cent de growth last year because people wanted to wait for BS-VI products leading to pent up demand in the last year itself. Further two months of lockdown this year has led to huge pent up demand,” he noted.

He added that demand would sustain during the pandemic period due to people preferring personal mobility over public transport.

“It remains speculative how the things would turn out to be beyond that and festive season because there is something offsetting these positive trends –pent up demand combined with personal mobility needs.

“It is the whole macro economic situation which is not witnessing growth, GDP is expected to see a 10 per cent decline. We will have to see the overall effect of that post the festive season. So far indications are that it will sustain,” Chandra said.


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Export markets leading sales revival, says Bajaj Auto CFO Soumen Ray

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New Delhi: Bajaj Auto is witnessing a strong revival in various export markets, including Africa and Latin America, as they were not hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns as the domestic market, a senior company official said. The company, which exports to around 79 countries globally, reported its best ever dispatches to international markets last month.

“In terms of recovery, international business is doing better than domestic because most of the countries where we export have not been impacted that much by the pandemic and lockdowns as India,” Bajaj Auto CFO Soumen Ray told in an interview.

The demand is very robust and various markets like Africa, Latin America Middle East and South Asia are doing very well, he added.

“We have only two areas of concern, one is ASEAN region where major markets like the Philippines and Cambodia are witnessing lockdowns and restrictions. Other is Sri Lanka, where the government has banned import of vehicles,” Ray said.

Barring these two, the company is witnessing very strong revival, he added.

“It (revival in export markets) is borne out of two factors — severity of pandemic has been less in these regions and thus, the economy is also less impacted,” Ray said.

The company’s export order book is very strong for the next few months, he said.

Bajaj Auto shipped 2.12 lakh units in September to various international markets.

In July-September period, however, two-wheeler dispatches fell 11 per cent to 4,14,271 units as compared with 4,62,890 units in the same period of previous fiscal.

Commenting on the outlook for domestic market, Ray said the company is witnessing increase in footfalls and inquiries at the dealerships.

“Jury is still out regarding the festive season this year. Looking at the response in the first few days of the festive season, our sense is that it is going to be similar or marginally better than last year,” he noted.

On three-wheeler sales, Ray said the revival in the segment depends on pick up in economic activity involving small commercial vehicles.

“Certain economic activity is required for demand to come back. Economic activity here pertains to movement of people from one place to another, relatively short distances, in both urban and rural landscapes,” he noted.

“Till that doesn’t happen, like opening of schools, entertainment areas, why would anybody like to buy a commercial two-wheeler or a three-wheeler,” he added.

He, however, said that situation is improving in the three-wheeler segment and September quarter was much better than first quarter of the current fiscal. MSS RVK


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Tata Motors crosses 40 lakh cumulative production milestone

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NEW DELHI: Auto major Tata Motors on Saturday said its passenger vehicle vertical has crossed 40 lakh cumulative production milestone, nearly three decades after it rolled out its first model in the segment – Tata Sierra SUV in 1991. The company, which over the years has produced models like the Indica, Sierra, Sumo, Safari and the Nano, had achieved the 10 lakh production mark for passenger vehicles in 2005-06 and 30 lakh milestone in 2015.

“This is a very significant milestone for Tata Motors. Very few players in the industry have reached such a milestone. This has been a long journey since we rolled out Tata Sierra in 1991,” Tata Motors President Passenger Vehicles Business Unit (PVBU) Shailesh Chandra told .

Over the years, the company always challenged the conventions and brought in many path breaking products, many times first in the market, like Sierra, Estate, Safari, Indica and the Nano, he added.

With Sierra, the company took its first shot at the SUV segment in the country. The company consolidated it further with Safari.

Further in honour of the legacy of Sumant Moolgaonkar, Tata Motors introduced the first ever multi purpose vehicle in Tata Sumo. With Indica, the company changed the customer perception in terms of how a passenger vehicle is received.

The company set up the PVBU vertical in 1998 and the first product to roll out under its aegis was Indica.

“It was the first indigenously developed car and since then we have always challenged conventions and have strived to bring in technologies which are supportive of the cause of the nation, whether it is safety or things related to sustainability,” Chandra noted.

The company has been focussing not only on the safety aspect of its vehicles but has also been leading the electric vehicle space in the country, he said.

“We have brought a paradigm shift to the industry that safety is also important otherwise it was not taken that seriously and to ensure that we were also the first company to commission crash safety testing in the country,” Chandra said.

The company’s compact SUV Nexon was the first model in the country to receive a 5-star rating from Global Ncap. Tata Motors is also the country’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer with 67 per cent market share.

It currently sells Nexon EV and two trims of Tigor, with different range, in the electric vehicle segment. The company also has ambitious plans to launch further electrified models in the future, with an electric version of its premium hatchback Altroz next in the line.

Chandra said with greater acceptance of its current model line up, the company would be able to reach the next 10 lakh production mark in much lesser time.

“It will take us a shorter time to achieve the next one million production mark. This should be on the back of the Indian growth story as well.

“So the industry should also reach higher peaks. It has been growing, barring last year and this year as well due to the pandemic, but the underlined fundamentals of the passenger vehicle industry remain intact whether it is from penetration perspective or buying capacity of people,” Chandra said.

From all the angles the growth story should come back as the economy also stabilises post pandemic, he added.

“So on the back of that growth and certain actions that we are taking to strengthen our product portfolio and the traction we are already seeing, I am sure the next one million should be faster then three to four million mark,” Chandra said.

The company now sells five BSVI compliant models — Tiago, Tigor, Nexon, Harrier and the Altroz.

Tata Motors has manufacturing facilities at Chikhali, Pune; Sanand in Gujarat; and a joint venture plant with Fiat at Ranjangaon in Pune.


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