Daimler India to launch eight new premium trucks
Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) Pvt. Ltd, which sells Bharat Benz branded medium and heavy duty trucks and buses, plans to launch eight new truck models based on the premium Thunderbolt platform over the next two years, Erich Nesselhauf, chief executive and managing director, said on Thursday.
The move, he said in an interview, will help the company become profitable faster than envisaged as the new range will be exported to as many 40 countries. This, in turn, will help the company better utilize capacity at its Oragadam facility in Chennai. It will also be helped by the premium price the new range will command.
Priced at Rs.60 lakh, DICV’s Thunderbolt tipper was launched for the mining sector in July last year. The first among the newer models will roll out in the next six months, targeted at the construction and haulage applications, said Nesselhauf.
“We will develop a complete new family from this platform including tippers and tractor trailers,” he said, adding that the company “will compete with these trucks on a global scale”.
Meanwhile, starting from next month, Daimler will refresh some of its models in the mass segment. These would have a tracking system and other technology features.
DICV entered the Indian market in 2008. It launched its first few models in 2012 and has sold 30,000 medium and heavy duty trucks (those with a gross vehicle weight between 7 and 49 tonnes). It has an installed capacity to make 50,000 trucks and buses.
DICV doesn’t report monthly sales to industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam) and Nesselhauf declined to share the numbers.
The local arm of the German truck maker is estimated to have sold close to 14,000 units in the calendar year 2015 in the domestic market against 10,000 units the previous year. It is currently operating at 45% capacity, according to a person familiar with the company who declined to be identified.
Fuelled by a strong replacement demand following a three-year lull, sales of medium and heavy duty trucks in India have been advancing at a brisk pace since June 2014. In the nine months to December, sales of medium and heavy duty trucks rose 29.74% to 207,668 units, according to Siam.
Nesselhauf sees the boom in e-commerce as yet another enabler for medium duty trucks. The company currently has a network of over 80 service centres and plans to increase it by 50% in the next two years as it seeks to penetrate deeper into a market which has traditionally been the stronghold of Tata Motors Ltd and Ashok Leyland.
S.P Singh, senior fellow at the Indian Foundation of Research and Training, a Delhi-based research organisation, says even as the Bharat Benz trucks have “got the nerve of Indian customers” in a short span, the company has a long way to go. “They still have to plug some vital gaps in their line-up in the mass segment, which continues to be dominated by the big two,” said Singh. DICV also needs to expand its network, he added.
Encouraged by the opening up of the mining sector and pick-up in construction and infrastructure, truck makers have been launching new models and stepping up production. The government plans to spend Rs.1.2 trillion on national highways in the current fiscal, with a target of awarding 273 road projects.