The M&HCV tipper trucks segment continues to look positive
RT Wasan, Vice President, Product Line, M&HCV, Tata Motors, elaborates on the company strategy in the Covid-impacted market scenario.

How is the demand trend of tippers from construction and mining segments?
The sales of the tipper trucks are majorly driven by the government initiatives in the construction and the mining sector and this has accelerated even further during the post- lockdown phase as the major projects resumed operations in addition to the announcement of new projects. The M&HCV tipper trucks segment was one of the first segments to report growth in the post-lockdown phase and continues to look positive, primarily on the back of resumption of construction and mining activities as well as the announcement of new projects. The new projects pertaining to the various infrastructure initiatives like highways, bridges and tunnels, port connectivity were fundamental to the surge in the demand for the tipper trucks. Irrigation, water resources, coal and iron ore and minerals are few other sectors that have had a positive impact on the sales for the M&HCVs. Remote and far-off mines in addition to the authorisation of new sites in recent past have catalysed the demand growth of M&HCV and especially the tipper trucks. While the government’s investments in infrastructure and road construction projects have been crucial, the favourable monsoon season along with a slight pick-up in residential realty sales have been major incentives in the recent surge in demand.

What is the production and sales scenario for your range of tippers?
With the pick-up in demand from June onwards, post the initial lockdown phase, we have been gearing up for the increase in production month on month to meet this strong growth we are seeing for the tippers. We are also seeing a shift in the portfolio of tippers as there is an increasing salience of the higher powered and higher tonnage tippers, as customers are benefiting from the increased productivity of such vehicles. Accordingly, we have also developed products which meet these expectations of the customers with our 48 tonne tipper trucks and also the higher powered tipper range with 250 and 300 hp engines. We have used the BS-VI transition as an opportunity to not only transform to the upgraded emission norms but also give added benefits to the customers like much higher productivity, lowered TCO and significantly higher profitability. In fact, Tata Motors ‘Power of 6’ philosophy, an ideology on which the Tata Motors BS-VI commercial vehicles are designed and developed have been integrated with various features and attributes such as enhanced comfort, safety, higher fuel efficiency and better performance. Our production is fully aligned with the demand for our BS-VI tippers which have been very well received by the customers, mainly because of the upgrades to our vehicles.

What are your key initiatives to beat the challenges in the Covid times?
The lockdown in late March created a lot of challenges for most of us across the country but more so for the transporters, their drivers and for the operations as it came all of a sudden. No one was prepared for the sheer magnitude of the impact of the pandemic or the lockdown which followed. Overnight, the transport business came to a standstill with tens of thousands of vehicles stranded in many parts of the country with drivers having little access to food, water and shelter and with the additional responsibility of taking care of the vehicles and the cargo on them. Additionally, there was the added responsibility of ensuring that the everyday essentials were delivered to people even during these difficult times.

Tata Motors, immediately after the lockdown, engaged in reaching out to the entire trucking community during the pandemic through various initiatives and with the channel partners support ensuring the drivers’ well-being, supporting them with food, water and even resting. Furthermore, Tata Motors set up a dedicated 24x7 helpline for truck drivers and transporters across the country in addition to on-road assistance. Tata Motors initiated over 900 emergency response teams that were located in important transport hubs to assist the truck drivers. To further enhance the repairs and servicing support, workshops were made operational, taking all precautions like social distancing, sanitisation etc. Tata Motors operationalised an extensive network of over 2,600 workshops nationwide, which were supported by 21 well-stocked warehouses with spare parts for faster turnaround of vehicles. Right in the initial phases of the lockdown, Tata Motors also took the decision and announced an extension of the warranty on all its vehicles as well as Tata Suraksha annual maintenance contracts for its customers. Tata Motors Finance, a subsidiary of Tata Motors, pitched in with financial initiatives for the fleet owners which comprised schemes like loan restructuring, credit solutions to buy fuel, recharge their Fastag among other arrangements.

What are your innovative steps towards product development? What are the new technology trends?
The BS-VI range of Tata Motors M&HCVs is equipped with powerful Cummins and Turbotronn engines which, along with global BS-VI emissions control technology and multi-mode fuel economy switch, offer best-in-industry fuel efficiency. The modern Prima and Signa cabins are designed to provide maximum comfort, storage space and safety, thereby ensuring fatigue-free and safe operating environment to the driver.

Additional features such as engine brake, Hill Start Assist, Tilt switch, intelligent instrument cluster and LED tail-lights further enhance the drivability and safety of the driver. Tata Signa 4825.TK, the largest and the best-in-class tipper truck in the country offers enhanced performance, higher payload capacity and lower TCO. Fuelled by the 6.7-litre Cummins engine, the 4825.TK is specially designed to endure the strong performance and faster turnaround required for the surface transport of coal, minerals and construction aggregate. Tata Motors has the widest range of mining and construction vehicles with an enviable range of vehicle catering to concrete transport solutions, as well.

The introduction of Tata Fleetman in 2012 has been a huge success in the connected vehicle space and right now more than 200,000 vehicles fitted with Tata Fleetman are actively plying on the road. Recently, with the introduction of the Fleet Edge, Tata Motors has taken another step ahead towards upgradation of the connected vehicle technology.

What are your offers and services in the pre-owned vehicle business?
Tata Motors pre-owned commercial vehicle business, Tata OK, was launched in 2010 and offers used vehicles with a company backed warranty. Tata OK caters to the diverse and burgeoning needs of customers for used commercial vehicles. It offers the best price for customers’ existing vehicles along with doorstep evaluation. The refurbished vehicles undergo a 122-point check and are offered with supporting documents such as company backed warranty, cleared documents and accident-free history assurance. Through our continuous innovations and advancements in this field as well, Tata Motors strives to offer the best-ever used commercial vehicle buying experience for the prospective customers. Today we do an average of 5,000 units per month through Tata OK vertical.

How do you look at the demand in the post-pandemic scenario?
The commercial vehicle industry is closely related to the economy. The industry after a complete bottoming out in Q1 this year is seeing a strong month-on-month growth from July to October and this growth is expected to continue in the coming months as well. The resurgence of the demand for steel, cement and retail will positively impact the demand for commercial vehicles in India. Trucks deployed for car transportation are also seeing a steady rise which will lead to a growth in the demand for the trucks in this sector. Additionally, the national infrastructure pipeline and the government’s push and investment in the infrastructure-led industries is going to be significant directly impacting the demand for M&HCV trucks and tippers.

The government is also actively pursuing the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Vocal for Local’ initiatives, which will see renewed demand for commercial vehicles. Opening of certain sectors like coal for private participation will enhance productivity and give an impetus to the material movement as well.

How are you realigning your strategies in the changing market scenario?
The Indian commercial vehicle business is cyclical in nature and it is essential that the strategies address the entire cyclicity effectively and efficiently. Market realisation by offering best-in-the-segment products and enhanced customer experience is going to be indispensable. Touching upon the financial aspects like reducing breakevens as well as deciding on a range of the financial metrics is going to be critical. This will help during a downturn ensuring that the company is financially healthy by initiating cost reduction, cost management and cost erosion measures. Generating good cash will be another important factor that can help and benefit the company in the long run. Tata Motors has been actively engaged in ensuring smooth operations across processes while mitigating the impact of the pandemic and the economic slowdown.