Indian Automakers and Hybrids

It is great news. Toyota is going to launch its hybrid Prius in India. I don’t know how reliable is the news. I wish it to be correct. Honda has already done that. However, with no concession on taxes, the price of Honda Civic will be about Rs 21 lakh with taxes constituting half of it. I don’t know why can’t the government do away with many taxes, as it will be huge saving on oil and emission. I was surprised when Honda announced the launch why Toyota didn’t do that. As much as I know the customers in US have already accepted Prius as good alternative to the regular gas guzzling cars. With Vikram Kirloskar with Toyota I expected that to come first. CII as well as SIAM must impress upon the government to give the manufacturers some tax advantages too. If the requirement is high enough, the manufacturers may even make India a manufacturing base too. Toyota today has gone ahead of GM to become number one auto manufacturer in the world. Its annual worldwide capacity is 10 million units. India’s market is lucrative enough for Toyota to give a sustainable lead. India is to gain a lot from Toyota as it has attained the ultimate in manufacturing practices in the world. Its lean manufacturing and legendary Toyota Production System has gone beyond auto sector and improved the productivity. However, surprisingly Toyota has been among the last manufacturers to enter both China as well as India.

As reported, ‘the 2008 version of Prius has been adjudged the most fuel-efficient midsize car in the US. Sold in over 40 countries across regions, the hybrid variant has also been rated as the third least carbon dioxide emitting vehicle in Britain. As the first commercially mass-produced gas-electric hybrid, one million Prius vehicles were sold by April worldwide, including 592,000 units in the US and 315,000 units in Japan.’

As I came to know from some of my friends in auto industry, the manufacturers such as Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra are developing hybrid of its own. I wish both the manufacturers took a ‘Nano’-approach to cut down the price to the minimum. Let the scientists and technocrats of IITs and other famed research institutions of the country get into some practical researches to make some essential products such as a hybrid car or small hybrid SUV as answer to soaring fuel prices and growing concerns over emissions that can be produced and sold world over a practical reality. Every country is trying to go hybrid through collaborations or its own development endeavours. Why shouldn’t India do it? Why should there be doubt if hybrid cars will work for India?

I was amazed to learn about the project of solar driven car initiated by Delhi College of Engineering and shocked to know that they are not getting fund as little as Rs 16 lakh to take it to the right conclusion in a country where Rs 150,000 crore goes in subsidies that never reach the beneficiaries. Interestingly, Toyota has planned to use solar panel in Prius too.

As many of IITs find it interesting to work with IBM, Microsoft and other IT companies, I wish it start working with the auto companies too in the innovation works related to every aspect of the vehicle from development to manufacturing and servicing too.

The challenge is to reduce the price of input with innovation in many fields including battery. A price tag of Rs 8-10 lakh can make a hybrid car sell in commercially viable volume in India too. It will extend the challenge to the auto component sectors too. It is interesting that in auto sector Indian manufacturers have learnt the tricks from Japan. Perhaps Japan has trained maximum number of Indians in manufacturing sectors. It gets reflected in the maximum number of the Deming Prizes that Indian manufacturing enterprises have own.

India can go ahead of China only with innovative approaches that must cover all aspects of product development for high-tech items and it must learn from Japan and not from China.

A country is today known by its position as automaker and vehicles that its people own and use. But as demanded by mother earth, the vehicle must use minimum of fossil fuel and must be as far as possible green. All who can think of ideas to achieve those goals will be called servant of mother earth and remembered.

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