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Eicher may target mini truck segment

Eicher Trucks & Buses, India's fourth biggest commercial vehicle player, may look at entering the mini truck segment to compete against the segment warhorse Tata Ace.

The Delhi-based unit, which is a part of VE Commercial Vehicles today moved a notch below its smallest offering and launched the Eicher Pro 1049 truck, a 4.9 tonne (gross vehicle weight) in the light commercial vehicle segment.

The company has itself kept away from the mini truck segment while focusing on the medium and heavy commercial segment backed by technology from Swedish giant Volvo who is also Eicher's partner.

When asked if Eicher would progressively look at entering the mini truck segment a senior company official, at the sidelines of the Pro 1049 launch, hinted that it will depend on the success of the products launched in the sub-5 tonne category.

Shyam Maller, senior vice president (sales and marketing), VE Commercial Vehicles said, "Today launch is a starter, we will see how it goes and on the basis of that we will take a call. We want to be indeed a full scale player in the commercial vehicle segment".

The sub-2 tonne category (cargo) witnessed a decline of 11 per cent last year to 116,560 units as against 131,455 units clocked in 2014-15, as per data provided by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

Tata Ace and its variants, Mahindra Maxximo and Jeeto and Piaggio Ape and variants, which make up this segment provide provide the vital link of brining goods into the city as well as cater to intra-city movement of goods.

However, the segment of 2 tone to 3.5 tonne, which is the biggest segment in the commercial vehicle space as of last year, reported a growth of 3.5 per cent to 183,414 units last year as compared to 177,132 units clocked in 2014-15. This segment, which is dominated by Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra with a share of 69 per cent, is driven by pick-ups.

Entering the sub-3.5 tonne truck segment will provide Eicher the opportunity to cater the last mile segment. This segment though faced with demand pressures during two consecutive years of downturn, it is slowly turning the tide.

"During an upswing in the economy the MHCV segment is the first to show growth followed by the LCV segment. MHCV sales has been very promising and the LCV segment has also begun to show some revival", added Maller.

The mini truck market has progressively moved to high tonnage vehicles, particularly pick-ups, because of demand for superior performing vehicles in areas of load carrying capabilities and engine power.

Mahindra has been the biggest beneficiary of this shift with volumes growing from 73,000 units to 127,000 units in four years. The company is rolling out yet another pick-up on Thursday called Bolero Pik-Up.

Meanwhile Tata Motors, the country's biggest commercial vehicle company, marked a fall of 23 per cent in sales of Ace family of vehicles to 84143 units sold last year as against 109,959 units sold in 2014-15. Its sales have shrunk from 205,000 units clocked in 2012-13.

Eicher beat commercial vehicle industry growth recording an increase of 26 per cent as against 12 per cent growth reported by the industry, according to SIAM figures.