Pankaj Dubey, Chief Executive Officer, Eicher Polaris Pvt. Ltd.
Q. What makes the Multix stand out? A.
It is targeted at businessmen who can use it for personal as well as business purpose. The vehicle can be used to carry passengers, and to move cargo. With a number of vehicles available in the market for load carrying, we may not be the best, we are however on par with some of them. Offering the comfort of independent suspension all round, the biggest USP of the Multix is the comfortable drive it offers. For those carrying perishable goods, or goods that may get spoilt due to road shocks, the Multix offers a solution. It offers a safe transit for products which are sensitive to bad roads.
Q. What about the load carrying capacity? A.
The payload capacity of the Multix is 450 kgs. Raising it by 15 to 20 per cent would not be an issue. We have come across customers who have claimed to carry 900 kg of cargo with ease. We do not support any form of overloading however, and it should be avoided at all costs for an improved ecosystem.
Q. What led to the development of the Multix? A.
We designed the Multix with a sole objective to serve customers that are looking at multiple usage. The Multix can perform various tasks, and deliver a fuel efficiency of 27-30 kmpl. It is equivalent to that of a two wheeler. When not carrying load, the Multix can be used as a five-seater car. Two-wheeler owners can have a bigger vehicle in the form of the Multix. They can have a vehicle that is comfortable, and saves them from weather changes.
Q. What went into the development of the Multix? A.
Both, Polaris and Eicher, combined their strengths to develop the Multix. Eicher brought in the PTO; Polaris brought in its ability to create a new segment and innovate. The Multix is an indigenous product. Its design is localised. It has been also developed locally. Eicher contributed to its cost effective development too. A Polaris contribution, the Multix employs flexituff material, which keeps the weight down. The contribution of both the partners ensured that the Multix would address the customer requirements. It is designed with a roll cage bar that covers up to 70 per cent of the vehicle area.
Q. The role the R&D played in the development of the Multix?
A. The R&D at Eicher Polaris comprises of a team of 40 engineers that look after product improvement, stimulation testing and development of a number of applications that a customer would like to see in the Multix. The team also looks at finding new solutions based on customer feedback. A lot of development is taking place, and includes an effort to make the Multix lighter, and more capable. The testing of Multix for new applications like transportation of liquids is carried out by the R&D. The R&D division is also developing and testing variants that would better fulfill the changing needs of the customers. There is a demand for open-top vehicle, and for a single cab version. A ‘flexi’ design, there are certain areas that are posing a challenge. The roll cage covers nearly 70 per cent of the vehicle, reducing the rear space. We are evaluating feedback received, and are carrying out feasibility tests based on the business needs.
Q. What is the homologation type of the Multix? A.
Mulitx has undergone homologation as a personal vehicle, and as a business vehicle too, at the ARAI. It can be registered as a yellow plate CV and a white plate personal vehicle depending upon the nature of its application. As for now, the demand for white plate Multix is more than that for the yellow plate. The demand for yellow plate is however rising.
Q. What is the difference between the MX and AX+ version? A.
The original design that we created was the AX. It was to be the primary model. Research and customer feedback however revealed that doors were necessary to better integrate the design. Both the MX and AX+ have similar features. The AX+ is more open and can be used for transport in rural areas where mobility is an issue. Equipped with a PTO, which is called the Xport, a feature that is common to tractors, the Multix could help to operate a number of agricultural units. An energy of three kilo-watts could be generated.
Q. Amid the talk of crash norms implementation, how do you see the Multix faring? A.
The top speed of the Multix is less than 60 kmph. To expect it to meet the norms that are applicable to cars that achieve much higher speeds is debatable. We have to adhere to them, and we will. It is a challenge that we are working on. Many changes, including the move to BSIV emission norms, and demonetisation happened in a short duration. This has brought about an amount of uncertainty, which is not healthy for the business. A number of rules are expected in the next few years, and will call for an amount of work. Both the
versions of the Multix are offered with an accessory that turns them into a fully integrated vehicle for secure cargo movement.
What changes has the Multix undergone to comply with BSIV emission norms?
This being a low-speed vehicle makes it more challenging. We have introduced EGR. The exhaust gases are recirculated into the system. To comply with BSIV emission norms, we added various things like the ECU controller as well. The changes have led to a cost increase of 20 per cent. For a small businessman, even a vehicle like this is an investment. It is therefore proving to be a difficult task to make him understand.
Q.Is the demand for an alternate fuel Multix rising? A.
We have not seen much demand for alternate fuels. We have been present in small towns where availability of fuels like CNG is low. After introducing the Multix in markets like Delhi and Ghaziabad, we have started hearing the need for CNG variants. We are not in favour of introducing an alternate fuel version soon.
Q. How many Multix are produced? What is the plant capacity? A.
The Multix is produced at a modern plant at Kukas, Rajasthan. There are robots that carry out welding in the weld shop. The entire plant was developed inhouse. The current capacity of the plant is 60,000 units, and can be scaled up to 1.2 lakh units depending on the market demand. Currently, we are producing the Multix in a single shift., which can see increase in shifts. But again, it depends on the demand. We are supported by 104 vendors with whom we are working on cost optimisation.
Q. What was the effect of demonetisation? The changes GST would bring? A.
The impact of demonetisation was felt in rural India since most of the transactions are cash intensive. That was felt for a few months, and continues to be in the the minds of the people. The migration to BSIV has pushed up costs. It is a concern that we and our customers share. The value that the customer sees is not very high. He is not ready to understand the reason that made the same vehicle, which was cheaper a few months back, costly. There’s been an impact, and will continue until people do not understand that price increase was inevitable. To ensure smooth transition, we did not produce any BSIII vehicle in the month of March. We started producing BSIV vehicles instead, and began our supply of BSIV vehicles to the dealers. Our dealers are left with a few BSIII vehicles, and we need to take care of those.
Q. What is your current dealer strength? A.
We have 76 dealers. By the end of this year, the number will rise to more than 100 dealers. We plan to elevate the dealer strength to 150 over the next one year. With BSIV in, we are looking at an all-round growth. We are closely monitoring the markets like Thane, Delhi and Faridabad, which we have just entered. These, we feel, will help us to gauge customer appetite. If Tier-one cities respond positively, we will get a head room to expand our reach. Since after sales support also plays a big role, and customers want a center closer to their area of operation. We are looking at strategies that will help us to address customer needs. All our dealers sell as well as service the Multix. We have also tied-up with a RSA to quickly address a complaint.
Q. What growth are you anticipating? What about exports? A.
This year we are growing at 20 per cent. Our aim is to double the growth next year. There are 13 big towns in India – big business centers, where we were not present. They are now our focus area as far as market reach is concerned. We recently began exporting the Multix to Nepal. We will soon find our way to Bangladesh. We are also looking into inquiries received from central American countries. Talks are on.