BharatBenz. Wow, yet another new brand in the Indian trucking world. And another brand for Daimler to add to their global portfolio. Okay, so the trucks are essentially decontented and cheaper versions of the Mercedes-Benz Axor and Mitsubishi Fuso's Canter range, yet the parent company thought it wise to add it as a separate entity to their burgeoning truck brand portfolio. That list includes Mercedes-Benz, Fuso, Detroit Diesel, Freightliner, Western Star and Thomas Built Buses. Phew!, that's some list.
Yet, the creation of BharatBenz is being billed as a masterstroke. In a country where Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland hold nearly 85 per cent of the commercial vehicle business combined, breaking that grip would require more than a 3-pointed star on the nose of a truck. What you need is to position yourself as an Indian brand. That it has Mercedes-Benz' engineering and decades old truck building experience globally is a plus.
Listening to Daimler India Commercial Vehicles boss, Marc Llistosella speak passionately and some what aggressively, you would think that Tata Motors would be out of the game in just five years. Of course, that's something only time and strategy will decide, but there is more than just Indian branding to the course of things. I was keen to know more, so last month, as I spoke to Aydogan Cakmaz, the head of R&D at DICV, I was taken aback when he told me that everyone in the company, even the HR head spends time to drive each and every one of their trucks. And Aydogan himself drove the trucks from Chennai to Hyderabad where their range was revealed. While BharatBenz has started on a right foot, it won't be easy.
Sure, they claim that their trucks are more efficient and truckers will find earlier returns on investment (RoI) than ever before, it will be a long time before mindsets change. And to even suggest that Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland will be pushovers, would be naive. Remember, Tata Motors is building more variants and versions on its Prima platform and at the recent Auto Expo even revealed their 407 replacement, that will take the fight straight to the veritable Canter. And Ashok Leyland too have a whole range of LCVs and new generation HCVs ready for 2012, 2013 and beyond.
Eventually Tata Motors and ALL will have to cede some of their marketshare, but BharatBenz will have to do more than just MCVs and HCVs. They need to go smaller and bring in a whole range of LCVs if they are to make a bigger dent on the big two. Even if it means partnering with Renault in India for the same (Renault and Daimler enjoy a global partnership).
All in all, the Indian trucker is in for a treat. And could well be the ultimate winner in this possible, three-way carnage.