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Maruti Suzuki MD Kenichi Ayukawa to help Japanese companies relocate from China to India



NEW DELHI: India’s move to attract investments from companies relocating out of China received a booster shot with Maruti Suzuki Managing Director Kenichi Ayukawa Ayukawa, who took over as the president of industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), saying he will make efforts to organise business exploration meetings with manufacturers of Japan to promote Make-in-India. Similar discussions can be held with manufacturers from Europe, United States and Korea.

The Japanese government has added India and Bangladesh to the list of relocation destinations that would make companies eligible for benefits in an effort to cut dependence on China and encourage firms to diversify manufacturing sites across Southeast Asian countries.

“Many companies in China are relocating or putting plants in other countries to cover geo-political risk.

We should bring those investments to India or tie-up with them to produce in India. I will make efforts to organize some business exploration meetings with manufacturers of Japan to increase Make in India. Similarly we could do with other countries like Europe or Korea or USA”, said Ayukawa at the 60th Annual Convention of the Automotive Component Manufacturers’ Association (ACMA).

Emphasising there is “opportunity in adversity”, Ayukawa urged component makers to maximise localisation of auto parts in the country. The SIAM sourcing group, he said, has identified four categories of components where imports should be converted to local. These are electronics, some grades of steel, tooling and electric vehicle components. Ayukawa informed, “ If we are able to achieve this, India will become very powerful for exports also. If there are challenges, I am sure Niti Aayog and government will try to help us, as it is an important national objective also.”

He added while it is important that component makers adhere to safety protocols pertaining to Covid-19, they should also work at increasing production to meet customer demand. He also urged component makers to take extreme care of quality and safety in manufacturing operations. “Because of social distancing norms and implementing SOPs, it may be possible to miss some steps in some processes. These could lead to quality problems or safety hazards. There is no compromise on quality and safety”, said Ayukawa.

Ayukawa held the auto and component makers is having a “difficult year” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they have to work towards sound development of the industry by maximising production, sales, exports, local content and capability.

Ayukawa requested Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant that if the government is happy with the efforts being put in, it should support the industry in creating demand by introduction of a PLI Scheme for exports, GST reduction and incentive-based vehicle scrappage scheme.

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said the crisis on account of the pandemic is massive and recovery in the country can be led by the local automotive industry. “The V shaped recovery from this crisis the finance industry is talking about, this will have to be led by the automobile and the auto component manufacturers. We need to work in very close partnership with automobile and auto component manufacturers”, said Kant.

Kant assured stakeholders from the automobile industry that he will push in for PLI for auto components and automobiles. The vehicle scrappage policy is also at a very advanced stage of interministerial discussion.

Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari confirmed the vehicle scrappage policy is likely to be announced as early as next month. Gadkari said, “We want to make the Indian auto industry the number one manufacturing hub in the world.”

Kant also urged auto and component makers to reduce imports and manufacture more locally. “India imports about $15 billion of auto components. I analyzed what are these components and the component: imported included gearboxes, radiators and axles among others. I personally do not see any technological impediment localization of these components. These are all products where India provides the necessary skills. And there’s no rationale for importing”, said Kant.

Kant explained when the Prime Minister talks about Atmanirbhar Bharat, he’s not talking about anti globalization. “He’s talking about native Indian companies excelling, he is talking about the opportunity to use the domestic market as a springboard for exports”, said Kant.

Hero MotoCorp Chairman Pawan Munjal concurred that the Indian Automobile industry has the potential to become a global hub in the near future and for that the industry has to invest in technology and digitisation. The government, he said, can support the industry by facilitating regulatory approvals and helping reducing logistics costs. He said that since reopening Hero MotoCorp itself has seen good demand in pockets, particularly in rural areas. In urban markets too the company has seen a marked shift on consumer preference for personal mobility amid the pandemic. “Post Covid reality is not a detour but can be a highway to faster growth by means of connecting, communicating and collaborating”, said Munjal.

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Tesla engineering director Joseph Mardall leaves for Zipline




Low-angle view of the facade of Tesla Motors dealership with logo and sign in Pleasanton, California, July 23, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Smith Collection/Gado

An influential engineering director at Tesla, Joe Mardall, has resigned his position at the automaker to become head of engineering at Zipline, according to his own LinkedIn profile.

Zipline is a drone maker and aerial delivery service focused on distribution of blood and other medical supplies.

Among his achievements during a decade at Tesla, Mardall led the development of a Model Y Heat Pump system, which was praised by CEO Elon Musk on Twitter, and led Tesla’s efforts to engineer a ventilator for Covid sufferers that could be produced using car parts. (It never produced the ventilators.)

Before he was involved in engineering Tesla’s latest crossover SUV, the Model Y, Mardall also developed thermal and HVAC technologies which became defining features in the company’s earlier Model X and Model 3 vehicles. His name is on multiple Tesla patents.

According to Forge, a secondary marketplace, Zipline in currently raising a Series E round of funding with shares priced around $32.63, indicating a valuation north of $2 billion.

Mardall wrote in a public post on LinkedIn:

After 10 wonderful years at Tesla, I’m super excited to start my next chapter as Head of Engineering at Zipline, working with a team of talented and committed engineers to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies. The next 5 years are going to change everything and I can’t wait! We are hiring for all roles across engineering and I would love to hear from you – come fly with me!”

Mardall did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

Nominations are open for the 2021 CNBC Disruptor 50, a list of private start-ups using breakthrough technology to become the next generation of great public companies. Submit by Friday, Feb. 12, at 3 pm EST.

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Tesla job openings for Semi truck production lines in Nevada




Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the Tesla Semi as he unveils the company’s new electric semi truck during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, U.S., November 16, 2017.

Alexandria Sage | Reuters

Recent job listings show that Tesla is moving ahead with its long-delayed plans for its electric Semi truck, an initiative it first unveiled in 2017.

Three current job listings call for employees to work on “Semi-Truck production lines” in Sparks, Nevada. That’s where Tesla already makes batteries for its electric vehicles, in partnership with Panasonic.

Tesla announced the Semi in November 2017, and said at the time that it would deliver the trucks to customers in about two years. At that time, the company said it would sell a 300-mile range version of the Semi for $150,000, and a 500-mile range version for $180,000, and that the trucks would go from 0-60 miles per hour in 5 seconds without cargo, or 0-60 in 20 seconds with an 80,000 pound load.

After taking reservations for the trucks from companies such as Anheuser-Busch, DHL Group, PepsiCo, Pride Group and Walmart, Tesla announced Semi production delays during a third-quarter earnings call in 2019, and again in April 2020.

In June 2020, Musk sent an e-mail to all employees at Tesla that called for “volume production” of the Semi.

“It’s time to go all out and bring the Tesla Semi to volume production. It’s been in limited production so far, which has allowed us to improve many aspects of the design.” Musk also said in that memo, “Production of the battery and powertrain would take place at Giga Nevada, with most of the other work probably occurring in other states.”

But in the company’s third-quarter 2020 financial filing, Tesla only mentioned its Semi initiative twice, saying it was “in development,” and noting U.S. locations for Semi production were yet to be determined.

More recently, in an interview at the European Conference on Batteries November 24, 2020, Musk boasted that Tesla was aiming for a Semi that could go even further on a single charge than originally promised, saying “You could take the range, for long-range trucking, easily up to 800 kilometers and we see a path over time to get to 1,000 kilometer range with a heavy duty truck.”

The company has a few prototype Semi trucks that have been in operation for over a year. But Musk has not disclosed when full-fledged production of the Semi, or longer range batteries for it, could begin.

Today, Tesla is taking $20,000 refundable reservations to order a Semi. (It initially required $5,000 per reservation.) The base price for a 300-mile range version is listed at $150,000, and for a 500-mile range at $180,000. Prospective customers can also order a “Founders Series” Semi for $200,000.

Meanwhile, Daimler is in small-scale production with its heavy duty eCascadia electric trucks in the U.S., and Quebec-based Lion Electric has plans for a SPAC, a new U.S. factory, and has inked a deal to deliver up to 2,500 battery-powered electric trucks to Amazon over the next five years.

Investors will likely press Tesla for details on the status of its Semi program on its Q4 2020 earnings call on Jan. 27.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Luxury carmakers line up 70 launches for 2021, expect V-shaped recovery




Mumbai / New Delhi: Luxury carmakers in the country are betting on a V-shaped recovery with most predicting 25-40% growth in sales this calendar year, driven by more than one car hitting the roads every week on an average.

Luxury carmakers have lined up about 70 launches – including all-new models, facelifts and variants – this year, which is almost double of Covid-hit 2020 when lockdowns and supply chain challenges forced most firms to defer rolling out of new vehicles.

The biggest product action will come from BMW, which plans 25 launches this year, followed by market leader Mercedes Benz with 15 new products planned and Jaguar Land Rover with 10. Audi and Volvo have lined up seven and five new launches, respectively, this calendar while another 6-8 launches will come from sports car and super luxury car makers such as Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Rolls Royce.

Mercedes Benz India managing director Martin Schwenk said the industry will get back to a normal growth track in 2021-2022 with customer base will grow on the back of financial growth in the Indian economy.

“We expect to grow by over 40% for the next two years,” Schwenk told ET. “The fundamentals of GDP growth and per capita will drive demand. The momentum is there; it is carried forward by new products. There is a generally positive market outlook. New products will definitely help us to sustain the momentum. It will be a completely fresh portfolio of 15 cars.”

Industry officials expects the luxury car market to record sale of 28,000 to 33,000 units in 2021, up from 20,000-21,000 last year.

As the economic recovery gains momentum and sentiment improves on the back of Covid-19 vaccination drive and fall in new infections, vehicle makers are confident of a strong double digit growth.

Balbir Singh Dhillon, head of Audi India, said the worst is over for the luxury car market. It will be a busy 2021 from Audi with a clear strategy focused on four pillars on strength – customer centricity, digitalisation, network and products, he said. The company aims to more than double its volumes in 2021.

BMW expects a minimum of 25-30% growth in 2021. Vikram Pawah, MD of BMW India, said the company has seen rapid recovery month on month after the third quarter of 2020.

“We will aim to outpace the market because of 25 new launches planned for 2021,” Pawah told ET. “This has to be the highest level of product action from the company. The demand for personal mobility is moving up, it is evident from consumer behaviour. With the time to spend with our family, there is a lack of international and local travel, there are a lot of driving holiday concepts coming up as well, which is increasing the demand for premium and luxury cars as well.”

Rohit Suri, MD of JLR India, said the British luxury carmaker owned by Tata Motors has planned 10 new product actions for 2021 on the back of quick recovery.


It is going to be an action packed year for luxury electric vehicles, too, with Jaguar I-Pace, Mini Cooper electric car, Audi E-Tron, Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S and Volvo XC40 Recharge expected to hit the roads.

A Volvo Cars India spokesperson said the Swedish luxury carmaker expects its sales pace to further improve in 2021 on the back of all-new S60 to be launched in March followed by all-new electric vehicle XC40 Recharge.

While the industry is bullish, experts foresee bottlenecks of supply chain and high taxes continuing to impact overall market recovery.

Ravi Bhatia, president of automotive industry analytics firm Jato Dynamics India, said the premium vehicle segment has struggled for growth in India with sales halving since 2018 from 41,000 to about 20,000 in 2020.

“There are several factors holding back the growth of the luxury market in India,” he said. “The OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) continue to struggle with growth in face of heavy taxation and limited size of ultra HNIs (high net-worth individuals) in India. Also, culturally, Indians are uncomfortable with bold and in-your-face display of wealth. This has forced luxury carmakers to play on backfoot, be it in product, pricing and distribution strategy.”

Bhatia said sluggishness in the market may continue in 2021 and supply side challenges, especially on the semi-conductor front, may play a spoilsport due to high dependence on chipsets in luxury cars. This may not allow the industry to reach the 2019 sales levels of 33,000 units, he said.

While the Indian luxury car market is struggling, the Chinese luxury car market has grown from strength to strength to reach 3.6 million last year.

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