Eicher Motors might enter mini truck segment

Eicher Trucks & Buses, India’s fourth biggest commercial vehicles player, might look at entering the mini truck segment to compete with Tata Ace, warhorse of the segment.

The Delhi-based company, which is a part of VE Commercial Vehicles, on Monday moved a notch below its smallest offering and launched the Eicher Pro 1049 truck, a 4.9-tonne (gross vehicle weight) in the light commercial vehicles (CV) segment.

The company has kept away from the mini truck segment while focusing on medium and heavy vehicles, backed by technology from Swedish giant Volvo, its partner in India.

When asked if Eicher would progressively look at the mini truck segment, a senior company official said it would depend on the success of the products launched in the sub-5 tonne category.

Shyam Maller, senior vice-president (sales and marketing), VE Commercial Vehicles said, “Today’s launch is a starter. We will see how it goes, and on the basis of that we will take a call. We want to be indeed a full-scale player in the CV segment.”

The sub-2 tonnes category (cargo) witnessed a decline of 11 per cent last year to 116,560 units, compared with 131,455 units sold in 2014-15, according to data provided by Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam).

Tata Ace and its variants, Mahindra Maxximo and Jeeto, as well as the Piaggio Ape and variants, which make up this segment, provide the vital link of bringing goods into cities and catering to intra-city movement.

The 2-tonne to 3.5-tonne segment, the biggest in the CV space, reported a growth of 3.5 per cent to 183,414 units last year, compared with 177,132 units in 2014-15. This segment, dominated by Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra with a share of 69 per cent, is driven by pick-ups.

Entering the sub-3.5 tonne truck segment will provide Eicher the opportunity to cater to the last-mile segment. This segment, though faced with demand pressures during two years of downturn, is slowly turning the tide.

“During an upswing in the economy, the medium and heavy commercial vehicle (MHCV) segment is the first to show growth, followed by the LCV segment. MHCV sales have been very promising and the LCV segment has also begun to show some revival,” added Maller.

The mini truck market has progressively moved to high tonnage vehicles, particularly pick-ups, because of demand for better performing vehicles in terms of load carrying capability and engine power.

Mahindra has been the biggest beneficiary of this shift, with volumes growing from 73,000 units to 127,000 units in four years. The company is rolling out yet another pick-up on Thursday called Bolero Pik-Up.

Meanwhile, Tata Motors, the country’s biggest CV company, marked a fall of 23 per cent in sales of Ace family of vehicles to 84,143 units sold last year, compared with  109,959 units in 2014-15. Its sales were 205,000 units in 2012-13.

In CV segment, Eicher posted growth of 26 per cent, compared with industry’s average growth of 12 per cent, according to Siam data.

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