‘Challenge is in Being Agile to Meet the BS VI Deadline’
This time India is moving two steps ahead and that is a tremendously serious move
The $40-billion Continental AG, Europe’s second largest auto component maker and a specialist in emission control solutions, is celebrating advancing of Bharat Stage Emission Norms VI to 2020 that caused a furore in the industry about meeting the difficult targets in a short time. In an interview with Ketan Thakkar, member of board and president of power train division at Continental AG Jose Avila said the challenge is to be agile in meeting the deadline. Edited excerpts:
Auto makers have voiced concern on advancement to BS VI by ’20... The challenge is to take advantage of this opportunity with agility. For us, as a system supplier on emission and fuel economy driven products, it is a positive development. We noticed from talking to customers, this time India is moving two steps ahead and that is a tremendously serious move. BS VI technology is quite advanced; it needs a lot of extra equipment and technology, which is already developed on existing core components. You always have to adapt it and give it the appropriate application to meet the Indian driving cycle. Since the transition is across segment, it is not just car, but two wheelers and trucks too. India is amongst top 5-7 passenger vehicle markets, the largest market for two wheelers, so the opportunity is huge for us. How prepared is Continental? The base technology has matured. The issue is there are so many packages on engines, vehicles, transmission combinations, weight classes… so many different calibrations. We do more of generic part, OEMs deals with more complexity. It is not the technology, but the time required to do so many different variation which is a challenge.
What about the cost? Cost pressures in automotive markets are huge, the base technology exists and we need the agility to localise to bring down the cost. We need to ensure that if we put up the line, it does not remain idle. The transition from import to localisation has to happen quickly. You had different manufacturing lines for automated for matured markets and manual lines for emerging mar- kets - this philosophy has changed. You now do one industrial development and deploy it in a modular form. The volatility in the Indian market is a big risk going forward. Instead of pushing for big bang localisation, it is cost effective to progress in small steps.
How do you see the impact of Volkswagen’s diesel crises on the automotive market? We are deploying NoX sensors now, post the (Volkswagen) dieselgate it is more and more about compliance on the field. The first challenge is proper application and integration in Engine Control System, the need to calibrate it properly. There is still time available to execute solutions for BS VI in India. With these technologies, the cost is going to go up further and that will impact prices. There is a lot of pressure to minimize the end effect to the consumers. Content will increase especially with RDE or ride drive emission; there will be a lot of content in after treatment, like SCR, which will take up the cost.
What is the future of small diesel cars? We have development of three cylinder diesel in Europe going away and the buzz word is downsizing petrol engines because fuel economy is similar to that of a diesel car. Migration is happening in India too. In larger vehicles, diesel will continue to have edge, but definitely smaller vehicles will have to abandon diesel. In India, anything above 1.5 litres will be relevant and we are already seeing smaller diesel engines vehicle sales declining. For petrol, it is downsizing, for diesel it is right sizing.
You have significant R&D presence in India. What is the way forward? We want to continue to grow our engineering presence in India. Tech Centre has grown from 500 to 2000 in a very short time. We are hiring more people, faster than expected. We will surely double our workforce on engineering, how soon, it is difficult to predict. Apart from building capability to support the local OEMs for affordable technologies, powertrain etc., a number of Indians are already working on autonomous technology, electrification system amongst others, which don’t currently exist in India.