With the country becoming a buzzing hub and an active market for automobiles and their components, the industry is already demanding higher attention from policy-makers, while rapid changes in technologies and regulatory norms in the sector across the world are giving rise to a new set of standards and requirements.
Taking note of the developments, the government has begun an exercise to review the composition and terms of reference of the Automotive Industry Standing Committee (AISC), which was constituted nearly a decade ago -- in September 1997 -- to prepare new standards for automotive items.
The government plans to include representatives from the ministries of petroleum and environment in the standing committee, which currently functions under the chairmanship of director, Automotive Research Association of India, Pune. Road users/ vehicle users will also be included in the committee.
Other members of the AISC include representatives of industry ministry, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE), Ahmednagar, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA).
Officials say that in the recent past, road transport has undergone a sea change in terms of vehicle technology, triggering a need to harmonise vehicular standards with global trends. Moreover, India is now a signatory to the 1998 agreement of World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP-29).
Industry sources said testing agencies like the Central Institute of Road Transport and the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRIP) have not been represented in the standing committee so far. Tractor manufacturers also play a key role in the growth of the automotive sector and have not had a representation in the committee.
NATRIP, the largest and one of the most significant initiatives in the automotive sector so far, represents a unique joining of hands between the Government of India, a number of state governments and the Indian automotive industry to create a state-of-the-art testing, validation and R&D infrastructure in the country. The project aims at creating core global competencies in the automotive sector in India and facilitating a seamless integration of the Indian automotive industry with the world.
NATRIP envisages an investment of Rs 1,718 crore ($380 million) in setting up, among other things, independent automotive testing centres within the three automotive hubs in the country, at Manesar in northern India, Chennai in southern India and Pune and Ahmednagar in western India. A world class proving ground will be built at Indore in central India, on 4,123 acres of land, as a part of the core NATRIP facilities.
In 2006-07, domestic passenger car sales grew by 22.01 per cent with 10,76,408 units being sold, compared to 8,82,208 units in 2005-06, while motorcycles posted a robust 12.79 per cent increase at 65,53,664 units. The cumulative growth for passenger vehicles in April-March 2006-07 was 20.70 per cent. In the financial year, the commercial vehicle segment grew by 33.28 per cent and three-wheelers by 12.22 per cent, according to the data released by SIAM.