iconimg Wednesday, May 27, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, July 19, 2013
It may have initially missed the bus in the fight for the light commercial vehicle market (LCV), but Ashok Leyland is planning a slew of launches in the next few years to wrest the initiative.
The segment typically defined as sub-1 tonne pay-load vehicle, was thrown open way back in 2005 when India’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer Tata Motors launched the Ace.

Ashok Leyland’s answer to that in the form of Dost, a vehicle developed jointly with Japan’s Nissan Motor Corp, took a while and was launched only in September 2011.

“We deliberately stayed away from competing with the Ace though people were sceptical about it at that time,” said V Sumantran, vice chairman, Ashok Leyland.

“Dost does not compete with the Ace. It helped catalyse a trigger to shift upwards towards bigger pick-ups. In the first half of this year that segment has grown 58% while the Ace segment grew 12%.”

The company is now gearing up to launch more sophisticated LCVs such as the Stile that blurs the line with a utility vehicle. Based on the same platform as Nissan’s Evalia, Stile will hit the roads by October this year.

“We will stay focussed on commercial vehicles and have no ambition to venture into the passenger vehicle space,” Sumantran said.

“But we are developing products that will cater to the gaps in the market. The Stile with its monocoque design, class-leading fuel economy and space is one such vehicle. We will have the first mover advantage now.”

Bogged down by a sluggish economy, the sector has been in the rut in recent times with sales declining for 16 consecutive months. In the first quarter of this financial year, overall sales fell 8% while Ashok Leyland’s sales dropped 21%.

“As an industry, we cannot afford to continue like this beyond this fiscal,” he said. “We have a strong product pipeline now and I am hopeful.”