ACI Bureau

The automotive sector with its focus on creating differentiated offerings for global markets and appetite for investments is an attractive industry. However, while cost arbitrage continues to be a key driver for R&D globalisation, there is a pressing need for Indian MNC R&D companies to take on big technology bets to drive innovation. Given India’s vast engineering skills and massive worker talent, can the country essay a key role in the future of automotive Design and Engineering? This constituted the bulk of the discussion at the 4th conference on ‘Automotive Design & Engineering’ on the theme: “Current, Future Trends and Innovations in Automotive Design and Engineering” on 26 October 2018 in Chennai.

“There is no question on the growth potential of the Indian automotive industry in the coming decades, as the market is expected to double to 6 million vehicles by 2023,” Gajanan V Gandhe, Conference Chairman & Vice President, IAC South Asia and Executive Director, IAC India, in his welcome address. “While the Indian market is expected to double to 6 million vehicles by 2023, we can definitely count on a high single or a double-digit growth in the next 10-20 years,” he added.

The one-day conference projected the key trends and technology involved in the automotive design industry. Gandhe emphasised that the biggest concerns are the availability of skilled technical manpower to support this robust growth in the next decade. “While there are hundreds of thousands of engineers graduating from institutes, the industry is skeptical about their employability and capability to deliver on the expectations. Investment has to be made to develop strong engineering talent for frugal technology development while staying abreast of the global innovations in technology. Encourage “Make in India” for world-class products and manufacturing technology by making it easier for multinationals to set up their manufacturing base in India,” he said.

This conference served as a robust platform of interaction for key stakeholders in the industry. The inaugural address was delivered by Neeti Sarkar, IRAS, CEO & Project Director, National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP), Department of Heavy Industries, Government of India. “India is currently the 4th largest automotive market in the world in terms of sales and is expected to be the 3rd largest by 2021. There has been huge action in the regulatory sides of the automotive sector in the last 5 – 6 years, it is the right time to start up new industries,” she said.

The day-long conference saw deliberations by experts in sessions like Automotive Product Design and Engineering Cycle; Materials and Process technology, and Panel Discussions on Future Mobility – Visions & Challenges of Mobility Scenarios in Near Future; Tooling, prototyping and Testing for Automotive Products, and Developing Critical Talent for Explosive Growth in Automotive Industry.

Gajendra Chandel, President and CHRO, Tata Motors Ltd, who was also present at the inaugural event, said that there is a huge growth in the Indian automotive sector. It is the biggest drive for the economy. He mentioned that demand is growing due to the new market trends in India. “At present, the automotive sector employs10 million people directly and 19 million indirectly. This is expected to increase up to 15 million direct and 30 million indirect employees by 2022, in which 60-65% of the jobs will require new skill-sets,” he pointed out.

In his special address, Velusamy R, Senior Vice President, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, said, the automotive industry is in a big whirlpool of change. He stated that imagination leads to the development of better and innovative technologies. “Passion and ability to learn are the 2 important things required to succeed in the industry. We must prepare for the changes in the connected world.”

Nitin Seth, President, Ashok Leyland Limited, said, around 8% of India’s GDP is contributed by the automotive sector. He stated that the development in infrastructure needs to keep up with the pace of growth in the automotive sector.

We are working on electronic integration, says Gajanan V Gandhe, Vice President, IAC South Asia, and Executive Director, IAC India

Q: The lifespan of a vehicle has come down drastically. This puts more pressure on designers to bring out new ideas often. How do you view this scenario?

Gandhe: In Europe there is end of lifecycle requirements. It is not there in India yet but, it will be here soon. The aspects of it have already started to come to India. Re-cyclability, and bio-degradability are some of the things that need to be considered. If re-usability also comes in, it would be great, as we do not have to dump. From that perspective, when we design, we ask the OEMs in terms of their expectations of lifecycle too. Based on that, we suggest materials that can be recycled and reused.

Q: Another major trend that is coming up in the industry is the lightweighting. How the industry is moving towards in reducing the weight of the materials further?

Gandhe: It will definitely be more of plastics. But, not just plastics. There will also be materials like jute PP, fabric materials etc, which can be recycled. There are also metals that are developed which have high strength like magnesium, aluminium and carbon fibre. The cost would not be a disadvantage here because when you look at the weight saving you get a better or equivalent cost management.

Q: What are the new trends you see in the global market for the instrument cluster that can be brought into India?

Gandhe: There is going to be a lot of electronic integration. Then there is lighting, soft-touch material in instrument panels etc. We have already introduced the soft-touch in India for a few vehicles. More chroming and features are also coming into the instrument panel. A panel with no buttons depends on the class of the vehicles. A few vehicles will continue with the buttons and some will go with the electronics. Mostly it will be a mix of everything. But, all this depends on the vehicle and where it is targeted to. On our R&D, we are working on the electronics integration because it is the future.



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