'ABS is the cornerstone of big progress in safety'

'ABS is the cornerstone of big progress in safety'
WABCO, a global supplier of technologies that improve the safety and efficiency of commercial vehicles, demonstrated its advanced safety technologies as the official Braking Technology Partner at Tata Motors’ T1 PRIMA Truck Racing Championship, 2015, at the Buddh International Formula 1 Circuit in Greater Noida recently.

In an interaction with Deccan Herald’s Umesh M Avvannavar, WABCO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jacques Esculier spoke about the company’s status as a major contributor to the safety of commercial vehicles.

Wabco is one of the leading partners in the PRIMA racing championship. Tell us about your association with Tata Motors?

This is a very strong, five-decade long partnership. Tata Motors actually is one of the strongest customers for WABCO  globally and we are very proud of being a part of this event. Indeed, the environment of a race like this is extreme and demands very reliable, fine-tuned systems. We  are showcasing those technologies here to prove that trucks are manufactured using the same systems featured on them today, and that they are incredibly safe and reliable.

What do you have to say about the latest technology that WABCO has implemented in terms of this kind of a championship?

WABCO is a major contributor to the safety of commercial vehicles anywhere in the world, including in India. We are very proud to introduce the anti-lock braking system or ABS, which is an incredibly important element of safety on trucks in the world. All trucks today are equipped with ABS technology. The government has mandated that by the end of this year, all trucks manufactured in India be equipped with ABS. We will continue to provide India with technology developed in Europe, and adapted to India, to enhance the safety of commercial vehicles on the road.

How important is the Indian market for WABCO?

India’s market represents today approximately 5 per cent of revenues globally and growing. In addition, WABCO India is also a strong contributor to product development and manufacturing for WABCO globally. There are trucks around the world that carry products that were designed in India and are manufactured in India.

Which is the country that sells more trucks with your products installed?

First of all, it’s very difficult to find buses or trucks that are not equipped at least with some products and systems from WABCO. China is the largest producer with more than 1.1 million trucks annually, while India produced at the peak, 3.74 lakhs air brake vehicles. To give an overview of our geographical base, Europe contributes about 60 per cent of our sales, US about 15 per cent, China 7 per cent, India 5 per cent, Brazil 7 per cent.

What is important for us is that we address the growing demands of the market as well as increasing levels of technology needs of the commercial vehicle industry. For us, it is a $3,000 per truck market in Europe. India is right now growing, and by next year would approximate to a $500-per-truck market.

Despite the government mandate, ABS doesn’t look ready to market in India. Even in cars, we hardly find ABS, what to say about trucks then?
ABS is the cornerstone of big progress in safety. Because for one, it avoids by itself a lot of minor accidents like loss of control, skidding and spinning off the road. Second, it also opens the doors to an array of additional functionalities and capabilities that are also important like stability control, collision mitigation system, lane departure warnings, etc.

The ABS mandate is the beginning of a solid improvement path for the safety of commercial vehicles in India. You have to realise that even though the Indian fleet of commercial vehicle only represents 1 per cent of the global fleet, 8 per cent of the fatalities due to commercial vehicles happen in India. As we keep adding further functionalities, we will reduce the number of accidents and the number of casualties in five years.

You were talking about the investment part. How much has been invested in India so far?
The investment rate is about $10 million a year and WABCO India is actually 60 years old so it is actually hard to tell how much money has been invested. But we are investing $10 million a year.

WABCO India reported Rs 1,138 crore in sales in 2013-14. What are the expectations for the current financial year?

We don’t comment on this because as it’s a public company. But we expect about 15-20 per cent of outperformance, i.e. to generate 20 per cent more revenues beyond the industry’s growth. We did Rs 417 crore in exports from India. For full year 2014, WABCO globally reported sales of $2.9 billion, up 6% in local currencies from a year ago.

Which product segment has generated the highest growth in the previous year?

Air compressors accounted for 11 per cent of sales in 2014, conventional brake controls 11%, transmission automation 10 per cent, air processing 10 per cent, anti-lock braking systems 15 per cent, and electronic braking and stability control systems 11 per cent, to highlight a few within our global product portfolio.

You are planning to ramp up production along with ABS implementation in India?

Yes. We have implemented local capability quite a while ago. Actually, we are already equipping 10 per cent of production, particularly to those vehicles that require ABS in transportation. And we have the capability to cover all vehicles, so everything is in place.

What are the challenges you face in terms of safety, because globally the standards are different when compared with India? Indian customers are very cautious about price, for instance.

We have redesigned and lowered the cost to the maximum. The value that ABS will bring in terms of safety is immense and the price too will be well justified. Again, there will be further capabilities and functionalities introduced by WABCO, and we already offer systems like roll-stability controls, which prevents vehicles from rolling over and jackknifing with the trailer. We are talking about the collision mitigation system, and functionalities that prevent rear-end collision, which is a major cause of on-road accidents. We are also looking at the lane departure warning system.

Apart from Tata Motors, which are your major customers in India?

Ashok Leyland. Actually all vehicle manufacturers are our good customers. Globally, Daimler, Volvo, Volkswagen, Paccar, Tata, and Ashok Leyland are the most important customers for WABCO.

Would you like to add anything more?

One thing that is interesting is the introduction of the concept of AMT (automated manual transmission) in the world of commercial vehicles. You know 75-80 per cent of buses and trucks in Europe have AMT systems. The penetration of AMT in Europe is growing fast and it saves you up to 5 per cent fuel. It really makes it much easier to drive a truck or a bus and it’s more comfortable for passengers too. When you have shortage of drivers, it shortens training by a large extent, and allows drivers to pay more attention to what’s going outside the truck. It normally takes a lot of attention for a driver to shift gears, but if we take that out, driving a commercial vehicle is easier.

Are you planning to bring AMT-equipped vehicles to India?

There are already city buses equipped with AMT in Kolkata and Mumbai, and soon there would in Bangalore too. They are highly appreciated by fleet owners and managers. We have equipped about 1,000 buses. That includes about 400-plus city buses in Kolkata. Right now, we are introducing it to trucks.

Is AMT being brought India as completely knocked down (CKD) kits?
We are currently sourcing it from our China plant. By the end of the year we will start supplying from India, i.e. from Chennai. We will be assembling it locally and by July they should be ready.

How many units are you planning to assemble?

That depends on the demands of the customer. Ashok Leyland has launched their Jan bus. Other customers like Tata Motors are working with us. We are expecting it to grow and anticipating that we are putting up facilities, and essentially we are flexible in building up the capacity.

What is the product portfolio of WABCO worldwide?

WABCO specialises in the engineering and manufacture of actuators, air compressors, air processing, air management systems, foundation brakes, anti-lock braking systems, conventional braking systems, electronic braking systems, electronic and conventional air suspension systems, transmission automation and clutch controls, vehicle electronic architecture, electronic stability control, and roll-stability support.

What are the initiatives taken by WABCO towards vehicle safety?

One area is Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). It involves connecting advanced sensors with truck control devices, such as braking and steering systems as well as engine controls, to improve safety, and avoid collisions. We pioneered our breakthrough OnGuardPLUS™ technology, an advanced emergency braking system (AEBS).

What are WABCO’s development plans on the technology front?

WABCO’s vision is to improve advanced safety and driver effectiveness and halve the number of commercial vehicle accidents by 2020. WABCO is working to enhance the global vehicle efficiency and environmental sustainability by 20 per cent.

Does WABCO intend to set up more testing centers in the International markets?

WABCO’s global engineering network has hubs in Germany, Poland, India, and the United States. We leverage these innovation resources to satisfy our needs, meet the requirements of our customers, and fully integrate with our global manufacturing and sourcing network.

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