With the Indian minivan and mini truck market estimated to cross two million units by 2015, Chinese auto manufacturers are eyeing a pie of the same.
Chinese companies such as Beiqi Foton and SAIC are likely to challenge the dominance of domestic majors such as Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra in the segment.
"Everyone realises the potential of this growing segment. We see Chinese are entering this segment. Their products are untested in the Indian market. So we do not think they can match our products and understanding of the market," said a senior Tata executive.
Interestingly, the Chinese entry will trigger not just a scramble for market share but a battle for talents too. Already, Rakesh Kalra, who was managing director, Mahindra Navistar Automotive Ltd — the commercial vehicle JV between Mahindra and US-based Navistar — has quit the company to join Foton.
R Shankar, who was previously heading the bus and minivan business of Tata Motors has also joined Foton at a senior position.A fortnight before, Chinese truck maker Beiqi Foton Motor signed an MoU with the Maharashtra government to set up a truck plant in the state for an investment of Rs 1,676 crore. The company will launch its full range of vehicles in India, including half a dozen light trucks and vans.
Foton may also consider introducing India specific sub-one tonne trucks and vans.
The sub-one tonne light commercial vehicles from Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) will also enter India by 2012. General Motors India, in which SAIC holds 50%, will launch three mini vans next year.