Home Interviews All our products are developed based on customer feedback

All our products are developed based on customer feedback

All our products are developed based on customer feedback

Tata Motors has consistently pioneered new segments, in commercial and passenger vehicles. Dr. Timothy Leverton, Head – Advanced and Product Engineering, Tata Motors Ltd, shares his thoughts on the automotive industry in general and his company’s plans in particular. Excerpts…

Could you elaborate on the current trends in Auto Manual v/s E-Clutch v/s Fully Automatic transmission systems and their applications in various types of automotive vehicles?

In the current scenario, AMT is the second most preferred choice by the Indian consumer, after MT (Manual Transmission) and is expected to increase by seven times, with AT expected to grow by three times, from the current market share. The E-Clutch system is still at an early stage in the Indian market.

One of the reasons Indian car buyers have been slow to embrace automatics is due to fuel economy, which an MT vehicle promises to deliver. With the same gearbox, an AMT is operated by a computer, typically performing the same as or a little better than a manual transmission vehicle.

With AMT technology in Tata Motors’ passenger vehicles, customers enjoy the convenience of clutch-free driving, automated gear shifting making it easy, along with the freedom to choose a drive mode, for maximum power and acceleration, a comfortable city ride and good fuel economy – all of these coupled with an affordable price. At Tata Motors, all our products are developed based on customer feedback. We are in the process of developing multiple new products in-line with market requirements and are constantly working towards improving the performance and reliability of our existing ones.

As we embark on a journey of rapid urbanisation and as our city roads get further congested, the convenience provided by an AMT-enabled car will become increasingly relevant.

What is the product range your company offers in the above categories? How do you visualise their market size for 2016-17? What can be expected by 2020?

The AMT gearbox offers a more economical option to the standard automatic or CVT units. This gearbox offers the convenience of a regular automatic, with the mileage of a manual and is affordable in comparison to a standard automatic gearbox.

In the current scenario, in passenger vehicles, we offer the Zest Diesel AMT – India’s first compact sedan with AMT technology and the GenX Nano AMT in the small car segment. Both these products have been well received by our customers.

Automatic car sales in India commands nearly 10 per cent a market share. By 2020, almost half a million vehicles in India are expected to run on automatic transmission with nearly 60 per cent of them fitted with AMT.

With regards to commercial vehicles, AMT as a technology can be applied to larger vehicles too. Based on the power input, AMTs can be applied for various commercial vehicle applications and we are working with a well-defined plan to equip our products with advanced technologies as per market demands. The Tata Prima is ready with automatic transmission and has also been validated with AMT. Ultra with AMT is in the pipeline and a variant with automatic transmission is being planned.

In light of connectivity becoming a norm, what are the areas of your product which require electro-hydromechanical-cum-electronic interface? How do you calibrate the system to suit a particular vehicle?

In passenger cars, Tata Motors has been working towards its CONNECTNEXT philosophy to provide customers with the best human-machine connected experience. The Tata Tiago has been developed to deliver a new level of driving and ownership experience enabling users to enjoy superior quality entertainment from their own connected device. The car comes equipped with an infotainment and audio acoustics system designed exclusively by HARMAN Kardon, which comes with features such as play music via FM/AM, USB, iPod, Aux and Bluetooth Audio and 8 speakers, with speed dependent volume control.

With the Tiago, we have introduced a new segment-first application – Turn-by-Turn navigation when connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The audio prompts and hard key operations are used to control navigation providing sheer convenience. This app also provides guidance on Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) and Next Maneuver, which helps in simplifying navigation while driving. Along with Bluetooth pairing, it also supports speed volume control, steering wheel-mounted information controls and phonebook on-the-fly.

The Juke-Car app, yet another first-in-segment feature, utilises mobile hotspot to create a virtual network and host a service for sharing list of available songs in the device. All connected devices can view the song list on the hotspot device. Users can place their requested song queuing.

With Telematics in its early stages of growth in India, Tata Motors launched the Tata FleetMan Telematics and Fleet Management services brand for its commercial vehicles in 2012, in response to growing market needs for better fleet control and greater fleet utilisation, support remote diagnostic and assess early signs of vehicle failure through prognostics based on various sensors being fitted onto the vehicle. Tata FleetMan is available in the Tata PRIMA and SIGNA range of medium and heavy commercial vehicles and can also be extended to other existing vehicles, through aftermarket fitments.

Vehicle models are rapidly changing and each new model comes with a choice of variants. How do you meet such diversity of demands through your delivery processes?

Our presence in the passenger and commercial vehicle space has helped us adapt to the way the Indian customer looking at a vehicle purchase, thereby enabling us conceive variants for the brands we launch.

With the need to differentiate from competition, and with customers embracing technologies more and more every day, these technologies are available as features and can be found in passenger vehicle brands, in the form of variants, at various price points. These features are by and large packaged or grouped as base, mid-level or as a fully loaded variant, with the base variant sporting the least number of features and is priced lowest, whereas the fully-loaded variant boasts the most number of features and is priced higher.

Having different variants for each model is useful from a strategic perspective. The sheer ability to segregate and quantify the different attributes of each variant is based on an intense customer-centric approach, with extensive research going into understanding customer preferences, when a product is launched.

The next step is to gauge the performance of these variants, so as to add another variant, or a couple of more features, to ensure that the vehicle brand performs optimally.

Since its launch on April 6, 2016, Tiago has received over one lakh enquiries so far, with more than 10,000 test-drives being conducted across the country. Available in five variants — XB, XE, XM, XT and XZ — the newly launched Tiago commands a waiting period of up to two months depending on the city. In certain cities, the waiting period for the Tiago is two months for diesel variants and one month for petrol variants. In some cities, both petrol and diesel models have a waiting period of up to two months. To meet this demand, Tiago’s production at the Sanand plant in Gujarat is in full capacity. The plant is operating in two shifts, with current capacity of 500 units of the Tiago per day.

How can light weighting or use of alternate materials help to make your products more competitive?

Light weighting contributes to reduce the energy demand of the vehicle and therefore its fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Tata Motors uses a systematic approach to manage a vehicle’s weight and cost associated with it at various stages of production, without compromising on the quality. We have been at the forefront in developing vehicles that meet the various environmental protection regulations, while striving to go beyond compliance.

What is the impact of energy saving lubricants in your product designs?

Lubricants are an important element in the larger picture of a vehicle’s efficiency. We continue to provide our customers with the best lubricant technology and support in today’s competitive market place.

We have collaborated with SERVO lubricants from Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) to introduce the high performance range of SERVO Tata Motors Genuine Oils (TMGO) for our passenger vehicles in the Indian market.
We have also partnered with ExxonMobil, for a new range of co-branded lubricants, specially developed for Tata Motors’ diesel commercial vehicles. The new range is formulated from high performance base oils and a superior balanced additive system, which together provide optimum engine performance through increased viscosity, deposit control and wear protection.

For global markets, we have signed an after-market partnership agreement with Total Lubrifiants to supply high-performance lubricants, across Tata Motors sales and service points. Total Lubrifiants’ presence in over 150 countries will support Tata Motors’ service network and its customers, ensuring the right oil grades, delivering stringent lubrication requirements of Tata Motors commercial vehicles across global markets. This is a first-of-its-kind partnership for the French company with an Indian OEM.

Could you share with us your long term vision?

Tata Motors has consistently pioneered new segments, both in commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles. As leaders in the commercial vehicle industry, Tata Motors will continue to develop a strong pipeline of products and solutions, along with leading the technology advancements. In passenger cars, too, the company will continue to excite the market with new and innovative product pipeline and up to 2020, we plan to introduce two new vehicles every year.

We see ourselves having a larger play in the mass car market, and also continue to be the leader in the commercial vehicle space with best-in-class products across different segments, with the key focus on sustainability and safety. There are a lot of interesting technologies being developed for autonomous cars, which will lead to features like driver assistance being introduced in regular cars.

We are focusing on quality and are incorporating learning points from Jaguar Land Rover. We are focusing in improving our customer engagements, which also include revamping our dealer development strategy and rapidly expanding our network to tap new markets including rural areas.

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