Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mahindra Two Wheelers and Peugeot Motocycles complete strategic partnership

Mahindra Two Wheelers Ltd. (MTWL), part of the $16.5 billion Mahindra Group, and Peugeot Motocycles (PMTC), part of the Euro 54 billion PSA Group based in France announced that they have completed the necessary formalities for MTWL’s 51 per cent acquisition in PMTC.

PMTC (a.k.a. Peugeot Scooters), a key player in urban mobility in Europe for 116 years, is the oldest motorized two-wheeler manufacturer in the world. Peugeot Scooters offers one of the most comprehensive range of scooters and mopeds, from 50cc to 400cc, including the successful three wheeled scooter – Metropolis – in the European market. This project was announced on October 7, 2014.

The acquisition, which resulted in the satisfaction of all regulatory, legal and financial conditions of the agreement, was completed smoothly by both parties within a very short span of time. As part of the employee dialogue process and Anti-trust law, the Works Council consultation process has also been successfully completed.

Speaking on the completion of the acquisition, Dr. Pawan Goenka, Executive Director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., said: “At Mahindra, we are committed to the long term growth of Peugeot Motocycles and are confident that this relationship would be one of mutual respect, trust and learning. This partnership would enable both MTWL and PMTC to speed up their international expansion by driving synergies and leveraging respective strengths. It is our intention to work closely to enable a win-win for both partners”. 

Under the terms of the agreement, MTWL has infused Euro 15 million into PMTC to finance projects implemented through the strategic partnership and has also bought shares held by PSA which would allow MTWL to take a 51 per cent stake in PMTC.

The new Board of PMTC has been constituted and would include the following members:

Dr. Pawan Goenka, Director - MTWL & Executive Director, M&M Ltd.
Mr. V.S. Parthasarathy, Director - MTWL, Chief Financial Officer, Group CIO, M&M Ltd.
Mr. Rajesh Jejurikar, Director - MTWL, Chief Executive - Farm Equipment & Two Wheeler Division, M&M Ltd.

Mr. Maxime Picat, Chief Executive Officer, Peugeot Brand
Mr. Emmanuel Delay, Executive Vice President, Operational Director, India - Pacific

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

BAE Systems names Deepak Parekh as India Chairman

BAE Systems has appointed Mr. Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC Ltd., as a non-executive Director and Chairman of its Indian subsidiary, BAE Systems India (Services) Private Ltd., with effect from January 1, 2015. 

Mr. Parekh’s association with BAE Systems began in 2010 when he was appointed a member of the company’s Independent Advisory Board for India. In his new, part-time role as Chairman, Mr. Parekh will provide leadership to the BAE Systems India Board and help the company realise its aspiration to develop capabilities and infrastructure in the country in support of Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make In India’ initiative.

Mr. Deepak Parekh said: “As a member of BAE Systems’ India Board, I look forward to working with the company and helping to contribute positively to the future development of world class defence and security capability in India. As India accelerates its pace towards the goal of self-reliance in aerospace and defence, it is an exciting time to help guide the company in support of that objective.”

Mr. Ian King, Chief Executive, BAE Systems Plc, said: “Deepak is one of India’s most respected business leaders. We are delighted to have the benefit of his experience and perspective as we continue to partner with India in order to ‘Make in India’ a successful campaign.”

Ricardo marks one hundred years of performance and sustainability

Few companies globally can match Ricardo’s impressive track record of achievement in the development of innovations for improved energy efficiency, cleaner fuels, reduced noxious emissions and noise, as well as leadership in creating new disruptive technologies. As the company enters its centenary year, a range of events and celebrations is planned, culminating in the mid-2015 launch of the low carbon Vehicle Emissions Research Centre (VERC) at the Ricardo Shoreham Technical Centre in Southern England. This brand new £10 million facility will enable the development of next-generation of clean, low-carbon vehicles including advanced technology hybrid electric vehicles and their associated energy regeneration systems. 

Founded as Engine Patents Ltd. on February 8, 1915, and formally registered on August 10 the same year, the company that is today known as Ricardo plc was the original creation of Harry (later Sir Harry) Ricardo. Its first major success was the design of an engine which transformed the performance of the world’s first battle tank: the First World War was then raging. The design incorporated a range of new technologies to reduce smoke and improve performance and efficiency in the arduous environment of the western front. Used in a range of applications from railway shunting locomotives to gen sets as well as in tanks, the Ricardo engine was the most powerful and reliable automotive power unit available to the allies, and became the UK’s first mass manufactured engine. The proceeds of this early success endowed Harry Ricardo with the resources to create the technical centre in Shoreham, which remains the UK and world headquarters of the company that he founded.

Unlike many firms of that period, the Ricardo company was – as its original name of Engine Patents Ltd. implies – focused from the outset on the creation of new technologies and innovations, as opposed to engaging directly in the mass manufacture of engines or vehicles. Performance and sustainability have been the key watchwords over the hundred years since then. The technologies that the company has developed and the engineering assistance it has provided has led to the creation of improved fuels and more fuel efficient, better performing and higher quality products by its customers – products that range from two wheelers and passenger cars to the largest and most powerful of railway locomotive engines, marine propulsion systems, and off-highway and construction equipment. While the company has expanded considerably from its early roots and operates today across multiple continents and industries, it remains true to this core ethos of excellence in engineering and clean technological innovation.

The Ricardo centenary year will commence with a series of employee events at each of the company’s many international sites across the UK, Europe, the United States and Asia. The first public aspect of the centenary festivities was the launch earlier this month of the Ricardo 100 web site – – which will be used to provide news and information throughout 2015 regarding events marking the Ricardo centenary year. This will be followed in the spring by the publication of a high quality book documenting the history of Ricardo, which will be made available to the public through the Ricardo online store. 

Reflecting the company’s commitment to education and training, a Centenary Bursary is to be launched, which will provide assistance to students initially from the Shoreham area through their university studies – an initiative that the company aims to roll out in the areas close to all of its other major UK facilities.

One of the most exciting employee initiatives of the centenary celebrations will be the ‘Ricardo 100 Global Challenge’, a round-the-world relay using some of Ricardo’s historic vehicle fleet as well as examples of the latest technology demonstrators developed by the company, and customer vehicles that the company’s engineers have helped to bring to market. The relay is planned to start from the Shoreham Technical Centre during the spring, heading east through Europe, Asia and the United States, before returning to Shoreham in time for the launch of the VERC.  

“True sustainability is not just measured in terms of our ability to reduce the carbon we release into the atmosphere, the resources we consume or the pollution associated with the emissions of transport and industry,” commented Ricardo chief operating officer Mark Garrett. “For a business to be truly sustainable it needs to do all these things, but it also needs to be commercially profitable in order to sustain its own performance and develop world class talent for the future. Ricardo is one of very few companies that can demonstrate a commitment to pushing the boundaries of energy efficiency and clean technology for one hundred years. This is clearly a cause for celebration for our employees past and present, our customers and our many other stakeholders around the world, as we look forward to many future successful years for Ricardo.”

Monday, January 12, 2015

Leveraging India’s free trade agreements with emerging markets

India’s current trade is valued at $0.78 trillion, which forms 2.12 per cent of the total world trade. Its exports are only 70 per cent of its imports and are largely directed to regions like the US and the EU. These markets are stagnating and there is a need for trade diversification. 

It is with this in view that India has signed agreements with a few emerging markets such as the ASEAN members, SAARC nations and others. The recently signed FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council and framework agreements which are under negotiation with the ASEAN and MERCOSUR offer a tremendous opportunity to penetrate into new markets. It is in this background that a discussion was recently organised by the Madras Chamber of Commerce (MCCI) along with Athena Infonomics, a research and strategy consulting firm. 

Mr. Arijit Dutta Chowdhury, General Manager, International Operations, Ashok Leyland, gave an exclusive presentation on the country’s export scenario and hindrances it faces due to infrastructural and procedural issues. He said that his company has witnessed an exciting decade with regard to exports. The revenue from export of vehicles has increased almost 7.2 times in the 2004-2014 decade, and the country’s overall revenue from exports has increased 6.5 times. This clearly indicates that there is a lot of potential to be tapped. 

Most of the multinational OEMs like Hyundai, Nissan and Ford have not only developed India as their production hub but also as their export hub. There is a clear shift in exports from developed regions like the EU to developing regions like Africa, ASEAN and Latin America.

As auto exports gather momentum, potential derailers both internal and external, like competition in the export market, tariff and non-tariff barriers and export infrastructure bottlenecks need to be addressed. 

Mr. Chowdhury further suggested that the Government adopt a holistic approach to address tariff and non-tariff barriers in the potential export markets; enhance duty drawback so as to effectively counter the cascading impact of taxes and duties; some changes in procedural aspects of EXIM Bank Line of Credit can go a long way in supporting automobile exports; address infrastructure and procedural issues at ports; and also address geo-political issues and enhance engagement through commercial attache of embassies in target countries and regions.

He also spoke about the opportunities available to set up assembly lines for automobiles in some of the competing markets like Brazil, Mexico, Russia, the EU, Indonesia and Thailand. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

‘Live the Best’ with Mercedes-Benz in 2015

Continuing its momentum into 2015, Mercedes-Benz India announced its strategy for the year founded on its brand philosophy of ‘Best or Nothing’. The growth strategy is built on 5 key initiatives with an aim to provide the ‘BEST’ to its customers through BEST products, BEST operations, BEST touch points, BEST customer experiences and BEST corporate citizenship.
‘Live The BEST’ will be the new driving philosophy for Mercedes-Benz India in 2015 to achieve the objectives of growing a profitable and sustainable business in India and to extend its customer focused approach.

Mr. Eberhard Kern, Managing Director and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, commented: “Mercedes-Benz continues an aggressive growth strategy in 2015 by committing to ‘Live the BEST’ which is integral to the founding philosophy of the brand: ‘BEST or Nothing’. Enriched product portfolio, future ready operations, BEST customer experience, enhanced touch points and efforts to be a responsible corporate citizen will be the catalysts in propelling the company towards its objective. We want our consumers to ‘Live the BEST’ with Mercedes-Benz in 2015 and beyond.”

BEST Products: Mercedes-Benz will introduce 15 products in 2015, including products with no predecessors in India. These 15 new products are Mercedes-Benz India’s biggest product initiative till date. The aim is to not only retain the loyal patrons attached with the brand, but also winning new young customer groups aspiring for a Mercedes-Benz. The products will be feature rich variants, keeping in line with the company’s strategy of bringing the right products at the right price.

BEST Touch-points: The product offensive will be supplemented with an aggressive network expansion during the year. Another 15 outlets will be inaugurated in mature as well as Tier-II and III cities, in continuation with the ‘go to customer’ strategy. This will be the highest ever in a year for the brand in India and will continue to further expand the densest luxury car network in India.

Mercedes-Benz India has called this initiative ‘15 in 15’ wherein it will launch 15 top of the pyramid products and a record 15 new world class new outlets, in 2015. The brand will continue to fascinate the customers throughout the year; reaching out to newer customers and delighting the existing consumer base simultaneously. 

The overriding strategy for the year applies a holistic approach to ensure that the BEST is delivered to the customer at all levels of engagement.

BEST Customer Experiences: Mercedes-Benz will take luxury to different cities through the year with an innovative and unique brand experience platform called ‘LuxeDrive’. Through this initiative aspirational and potential consumers will get an opportunity to experience adrenalin, gourmet and haute couture at one luxury venue. The LuxeDrive will travel through 15 cities across the country. Participants will have the opportunity to drive the range of Mercedes-Benz cars including sedans, SUVs and AMGs through specially designed courses. This experience will be amplified by the BEST gastronomic experience with Michelin Star Chef Vikas Khanna, who will create an exotic menu for the events in each city and interact with customers. This luxury experience will be rounded off with some luxury retail therapy with the luxury apparel partners.

Customers will be delighted during the year with the introduction of a host of new service programmes. The intention behind the new customized packages for different models of cars will be to ensure that the ownership experience comes with complete peace of mind. An exclusive service package for the New Generation Cars will ensure a cost of ownership starting as low as Rs. 1.99 / km.

Similarly, specifically curated financial programmes from Mercedes-Benz Financial will ensure a delightful and satisfying purchase experience for the customer. One of the new highlight offerings will be the unmatched interest rate of 9.99% for New Generation Cars.

BEST Operations: Mercedes-Benz India will continue its aggressive strategy in its operations as well with an additional investment for capacity expansion in the Chakan plant, taking the total investment to over Rs. 1,000 crores. The extended facility has secured the necessary clearances and will begin production by June of 2015. With this expansion, the plant will now have a capacity of 20,000 units per year, the largest for any luxury car manufacturer. With this future ready facility, we are ready to deliver the BEST to our customers.

BEST Corporate Citizen: With the aim of giving back to society, Mercedes-Benz India has collaborated and initiated a variety of social initiatives so far and will continue to engage further in newer projects during this year. Mercedes-Benz will further invest into its Roof Top Solar Plant and help in protecting and preserving resources. The company will make additional investments to further increase the capacity of the solar plant to 10 times of current capacity by 2016. Mercedes-Benz will also further strengthen its Advanced Mechatronics course in northern India based on the Public-Private Partnership model. This will be an extension of the present association with Government Polytechnic, Pune and Government Polytechnic, Aurangabad. This partnership is a milestone on the path towards modernization, practical relevance and flexibility of vocational education and training in India.

These initiatives are the reflection of Mercedes-Benz India’s overriding philosophy of ‘Live the Best’ which drives the Three Pointed Star towards establishing new benchmarks in luxury motoring in India.

Ford announces Innovate Mobility Challenge Series winners

Ford has named the latest winners in its Innovate Mobility Challenge series, a key part of Ford Smart Mobility – the first widespread implementation of the company’s long-term plan for sustainable mobility solutions.

The series is comprised of 11 global challenges in which Ford invited developers to come up with innovative solutions to mobility problems around the world. Challenges included delivering healthcare solutions in Tamil Nadu, providing real-time information to improve transportation during Monsoons in Mumbai, decrease time taken to get help after a traumatic incident in Delhi, busting traffic congestion in some of China’s most densely populated cities, and improving the delivery of goods and services in Portugal.

Winners from around the world were showcased during Ford President and CEO Mark Fields’ 2015 International CES keynote address, which outlined the company’s far-reaching plans in mobility, connectivity and autonomy to create a better world for millions of drivers all over the globe.

“Ford has been enabling personal mobility since day one,” said Fields. “Now, more than ever before, Ford’s open-innovation approach, new technologies and a globally connected network of developers are enabling mobility solutions at an unprecedented rate.”

The challenges span the globe, from The Americas to China, Africa, Europe, Australia and India. Prizes exceeding $200,000 (US) will be awarded – as well as scholarships for entrepreneurial education in Argentina.

“One of the most thrilling aspects of the mobility challenges has been watching people come together from all over the world,” said Ken Washington, Vice President, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “To see people in the United States getting involved with finding solutions in India or China, and vice versa, is a remarkable demonstration of what an environment of open innovation can accomplish.”

For each challenge, Ford worked with local experts to address the unique mobility needs of that location. Once the submissions came in, a panel of local experts and Ford executives involved in mobility solutions judged each competition.

“There’s no single solution for mobility challenges, which are – at their core – local issues,” said Washington. “Our goal with this series was to bring the global developer community together in the pursuit of creating a more sustainable and efficient transportation landscape for the future.”

Jaguar Land Rover bid to develop sensing technology for checking drowsy driving

Jaguar Land Rover is working with Intel and Seeing Machines to develop sensing technology that monitors the driver’s face and eyes to reduce distracted and drowsy driving. 

Seeing Machines is a world leader in the development of computer vision related technologies that help machines understand people by tracking and interpreting human faces and eyes.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Seeing Machines is demonstrating its Driver Monitor System (DMS) in a Jaguar F-Type prototype developed jointly with Intel at Jaguar Land Rover’s new R&D facility in Portland, Oregon. 

DMS uses attention-monitoring sensors in the dashboard to detect eye and facial movements so it can identify if the driver has become inattentive, either due to drowsiness or distraction. It is so sophisticated it can understand the state of the driver in real world conditions, including bright sunlight and if the driver is wearing glasses or sunglasses.

Nick Langdale-Smith, Vice President, Seeing Machines, said: “The algorithm we have developed for DMS has the potential to seamlessly enable a host of safety and autonomous driving features and reduce the potential for accidents caused by the driver not paying attention. DMS is unique because it is the only driver monitoring system that can achieve this even if the driver is wearing shades, or in full sunshine.” 

To deliver the processing power required by the DMS system, Seeing Machines asked Intel to install hardware in the F-Type prototype based on its newest Intel Core i7 chips.

Eliott Garbus, Vice President of Transportation Solutions at Intel said: “By choosing Intel chips to power their compute intensive technology Seeing Machines will be able to offer automakers like Jaguar Land Rover an enhanced experience for their customers in the future.” 

Dr. Wolfgang Ziebart, Jaguar Land Rover Engineering Director, said: “The attention-monitoring technology we are showcasing at CES has huge potential for road safety. If the driver’s gaze moves towards the infotainment screen or out of a side window, and the car identifies this, then the system could alert the driver to hazards earlier. DMS could even enhance settings in safety systems like Autonomous Emergency Braking, to reflect the driver’s lack of attention. As the car drives up to a hazard, the brakes could engage autonomously sooner because the car realises the driver has not seen the danger ahead.”

DMS could also help the car share information with the driver more effectively. Jaguar Land Rover is currently researching a next-generation heads-up display that could utilise the full width of the windscreen. The idea is to present the right information to the driver at the right time, without having to take their eyes off the road.

“Whether we are projecting a transparent view of the bonnet, or helping the driver to navigate by following a ghost car, it would be very useful to understand exactly when the driver’s eyes aren’t actually looking at the windscreen to see this information, so it can be repeated or shared in a different way,” added Dr. Ziebart.