DiamlerChrysler, Volvo, Renault plan to hit roads with their high-capacity trucks soon.
The heavy tonnage truck segment - the hottest new growth sector in the automobile industry - has caught the fancy of over half a dozen new players who are vying for a piece of action.
DiamlerChrysler, Volvo, Nissan and Renault are eyeing the Indian truck market with their heavy tonnage trucks with a carrying load capacity of over 25 tonne.
Also in the race are: US-based International Truck and Engine Corporation with Mahindra, Swedish truck major Scania with Larsen & Tubro and the German auto major MAN which is partnering with Force Motors.
DiamlerChrylser has already made a beginning by launching its Actros range of super heavy trucks (these are 200 tonne trucks) for the mining sector, selling 37 units till November 2006. The company will launch its other high capacity trucks in two years. Each unit sells for over Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) a piece.
Sanjiv Sahajwala, director, sales and marketing, DiamlerChrysler, said: "After the good response to the Actros range, we are planning to venture into the heavy truck segment though the right segment is yet to be identified. The time is ripe to launch such big machines with good demand for movement of bulk cargo in the country."
The company is setting up its new factory to assemble cars at Pune which will also be utilised to produce commercial vehicles in future.
The sudden interest of foreign players is attributed to the consistent demand for bigger and heavier trucks in the domestic market. Figures from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) suggest that the highest-ever sales of 90,182 units of the multi-axle (25-50 tonne capacity) vehicles were recorded during the April-November period against 48,654 units reported during the corresponding period last year, an increase of 85 per cent.
Besides, the unprecedented growth in sales, the load-carrying capacity has also undergone changes. The commercial goods transport industry increased its load-carrying capacity by 89 per cent at 3.77 million tonne during the April-November 2006 against 1.98 million tonne, which was added in the same period in 2005.
SP Singh, co-ordinator, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training, said: "Low cost of operation and better returns on investment from these heavy duty trucks and tractors-trailers have brought about this shift. Then, improvement in the cargo movement by the Railways also forced the transport industry to modernising its existing fleet and go in for advanced machines."
To meet the growing demand, the existing local players in the heavy truck segment have also drawn up plans.
While Tata Motors will launch NOVAS, the heavy-duty truck range from the Daewoo Motors stable, Ashok Leyland has already introduced its NewGen heavy-duty range. The new players such as Tatra Motor and Asian Motor Works are producing only high tonnage trucks.
"There is a shift towards these multi-axle vehicles due to the boom in the economy and the improved road network. But the Supreme Court verdict banning overloading has presented an inflexion point for the demand and growth of these tonnage vehicles. We are expanding our range and will be launching many products catering to this segment," said Vinod Dasari, chief operating officer, Ashok Leyland.
Industry sources said the commercial vehicle industry in India is showing signs of evolving on the global pattern of prime movers, where multi-axle trucks take the entire load of cargo between cities and offer cheaper freight and faster mobility.