Future vehicle technology grabs attention at Auto Expo

New Delhi: ''The world is moving towards globally integrated economic structures. India can compete with global economies only if it adopts global practices. Robotics will be valuable and we will have to encourage it to make it important not only for particular companies but to the nation as a whole.'' There were Kapil Sibal's observations. The minister for science and technology & earth sciences made these remarks during the first robotics and automation conference, organised jointly by CII, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) on the sidelines of the 9th Auto Expo.

Highlighting the increasing importance of the robotics and automation industry, Sibal stated, ''There are 7000 people per million doing R&D in the same field in the Scandinavian countries; 4700 per million in US, while the number is paltry 156 per million in India. We can look at an accelerated growth only when we take this number higher.''
 
The two-day conference aims at providing a platform to the participants to network with and learn from the experts and practitioners in robotics and automation. In his welcome address, Dr Surinder Kapur, chairman, Manufacturing Innovation Mission, CII and CMD – Sona Koyo Steering Systems Ltd, said, ''Indian industry has done tremendously well in low cost automation. It is encouraging to see that out of the 11 robotics company at the Robo Expo, five are Indian companies. It is also notable that some of the exhibitors have done global launches from here.''
 
Sharing his vision on robotics and automation industry, R C Bhargav, former chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd said, ''Robotics is the means to make competitive automation in India. Increased usage of robotics and automation can take the manufacturing sector growth up to 12-13 per cent in the near future.''
 
On the other hand, aiming for a better tomorrow for the automotive industry, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) in association with MIRA UK organised a seminar on 'Future vehicle technologies'. Addressing the gathering present during the inaugural programme, Surajit Mitra, joint secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, said, ''We need to focus on five aspects of automobile industry like intelligent vehicle that could minimize human error while driving and upgradation of safety standards and efficient fuel consumption. Infact, the alternate fuels be it hydrogen or solar energy need to be made commercially viable with special emphasis on the environmental friendly technology.'' He also added that there has been a relocation of production of automobiles worldwide and now it is the time that R&D would also be relocated to countries like India. Terry Spall, vice president Asia MIRA, who stressed on the urgent need for hybrid fuel, shared his concerns. ''Things are changing and people are becoming aware of hybrid technology. Unfortunately, it is very expensive but I am sure the situation would change soon,'' he said.
 
Among other distinguished delegates present, A Ramasubramanian, chief executive, Eicher Motors said the developments in the last twenty years, which has been very significant, would still be faster now in this sector. Presentations were also made on future propulsion technologies using hydrogen and hybrids for bus applications and passenger cars. Technology providers, such as Ballard Power Systems and Lotus Engineering shared the breakthroughs being achieved worldwide for propelling vehicles. A day-long seminar hosting members of Italian, Latin American, Caribbean region and the Indian auto sector was also organized by ACMA on the sidelines of the 9th Auto Expo. The meeting discussed the capabilities of Indian component suppliers and challenges facing them in Indian automotive industry.
 
Present on the occasion, Deep Kapuria, past president ACMA, addressed the delegation and underlined the infrastructural barriers faced by the industry. He said, ''Infrastructure problems, talent crunch, access towards class technology and quality practices, cost and globalization are some serious challenges that need to be addressed. Inspite of the huge reservoir of population under 35 years of age, India still faces a talent crunch with respect to quality and skilled and trained manpower. Raw materials need to be tailored according to the needs of the industry. Also present on the occasion were Jochen Oebels, marketing coordinator of from Concept to Car, and Alberto Caligaris of Unione Industriale Torino. In describing Piemonte and its local automotive industry, Oebels revealed that it has established its presence in the international market and is popularly known as the 'Component industry of Piemonte'.
 
Located in the north-west area of Italy, Piemonte has 1200, small and medium sized companies, employs 80,000 people and as an annual turnover of 15 billion Euros. Today about 100 million cars are manufactured around the world with the design, know-how and components made in Piemonte. Concept to Car has a roaster of clients that includes Indian names like TATA, Toyota, Bajaj, Hero Honda, Eicher apart from international names like BERT. In his closing address, Alberto Caligaris thanked ACMA for organizing an incredible exhibition and said the exhibition is 'a new and further step towards great co-operation between Indian and Italian companies.' The 5th biennial convention of automobile dealers, which is being organised by the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) in association with SIAM, pointed out that the very viability of automobile dealerships is under severe stress.
 
Customer expectations are getting sky-high on one hand, the manufacturers insist on world-class ambience and facilities at the showrooms and workshops, on the other. While the costs of dealership operations are rising to alarming proportion, the sale margins are shrinking, as the competition intensifies with each passing day and the manufacturers come up with the promotional offers to retain and increase their market share. The government with the support of industry has come out with a vision document, namely, Automotive Mission Plan 2016.

The AMP envisages the turnover of the auto industry to reach about $140billion by 2016, thereby doubling its contribution to the country's GDP from 5.2 per cent currently to 10.4per cent. ''While these figures are music to our ears, managing growth is a big challenge for all of us. When we talk of market growing threefold, it would mean dealership network would also have to be expanded. There is a need for creation of auto zones or clusters in various parts of the cities in the land and town planning of major cities within the country,'' FADA noted.