Hindustan Motors of the CK Birla group today sprung a surprise by launching, what it claimed, the first Chinese vehicle in India. The auto company rolled out a 1-tonne-capacity mini-truck produced under licence from Shandong Shifeng in the Shandong province of China. Priced below Rs 400,000, the vehicle is named the HM-Shifeng Winner.
HM-Shifeng Winner will be imported in a knocked-down form from China. HM aims at manufacturing up to 60 vehicles a day initially at its facility in Uttarpara, 30 km from Kolkata.
Shandong Shifeng, with sales of 0 million and a market share of 40 per cent in mainland China, has nine factories and exports vehicles to the US, West Asia, Europe, Africa and south-east Asia.
The Automotive Research Association of India has approved the vehicle, with a 1489cc diesel engine producing 26.5 KW power and 73NM torque driving through a 4-speed gear box, using disc front brakes and leaf springs.
The HM-Shifeng Winner will take on Tata Motors' Ace. The vehicle is HM's first launch after almost 28 years.
HM managing director R Santhanam said, "The vehicle would be rolled out across India in nine months. HM would be using the Winner, existing models and some redesigned versions to achieve full production capacity at the Uttarpara plant."
Santhanam pointed out that the vehicle would be completely built at the company's Uttarpara plant, with HM supplying the power unit and drive train, while the Chinese counterpart will supply cable harnesses and chasis components. HM will launch two more variants of the mini-truck and there could be a CNG-powered version for the Delhi region within 6-8 weeks, with a third variant by March, said Santhanam.
HM claimed that the Chinese vehicle offers interiors and vibration levels similar to those in cars and meet the BS-III norms.
The Uttarpara plant has a production capacity of 24,000 units a year, but is underutilised, Santhanam admitted.
Last year, HM produced only 11,000 units of its Ambassador model from there. The plant can produce at least 1,000 vehicles a month in each shift on one assembly line, but production is flexible and can be augmented, depending on the market demand and financing options, said Santhanam.
Santhanam said the poor market sentiment and poor availability of retail finance had hit November sales badly by more than 50 per cent in segments heavily dependent on retail financing for July-October 2008.
Easier retail financing will boost sales and yield significant volumes, he added.
HML will shortly start operations at its forging, casting and stamping unit, also in Uttarpara, as a part of its Rs 78-crore (Rs 780 million) investment plan for the unit, mainly in the forging division.
Santhanam said several original equipment manufacturers had placed orders with HM.