Hyundai Motor honcho Rakesh Srivastava: Electric Vehicles good, combination of technologies better

Published On: 01, Dec 2017 | Source: financialexpress.com

The government is pushing an electric mobility vision, having proposed only electric vehicle (EV) sales from 2030 onwards. However, another approach could have been providing the auto industry parameters on emissions, which can lead to greater and faster participation from the industry, benefiting the customer, argues Rakesh Srivastava, who spearheads the Sales and Marketing division at Hyundai Motor India Ltd, as Director. Even though Hyundai has not officially announced its EV plans for India, during next year’s Auto Expo the company will showcase new technologies, “including turbo engine technologies and electric powertrains,” he adds. Does this mean Hyundai might soon launch either its global Ioniq brand or a compact-size electric car in India? It’s too early to say. As far as pure EVs are concerned, electric sedans and SUVs make more sense than, say, an electric hatchback. The reason is that EVs that could be launched as soon as 2020 have to also meet enhanced regulatory norms pertaining to crash test worthiness and advanced safety. In view of that, the first choice would likely be sedans and SUVs, which are more likely to meet these norms. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he also talks about Hyundai’s safety campaign, new sales targets and why the Verna will continue its success run for a long time. Excerpts:

How do you view the government’s proposal of only EV sales from 2030 onwards?
The proposal is welcome, but another approach could have been providing the industry parameters on emissions, which can lead to greater and faster participation from the industry, benefiting the customer. In fact, various technologies—including electric, fuel cell, ethanol and hybrid—can compete with each other to achieve the best results, rather than relying on one technology alone (electric).

Why did SIAM welcome the proposal on earlier-than-planned BS-VI fuel introduction in Delhi NCR?
As an industry that constantly strives to go green, industry body SIAM will always welcome any decision that propagates the same. If the government assures that oil companies can provide such fuel, then, I believe, it’s a welcome initiative. We already have BS-VI engine technology; we’re exporting such vehicles. How much does the cost of a vehicle increase when it moves from BS-IV to BS-VI? It definitely increases—the cost increase is more for diesel than for petrol vehicles. In addition, it varies from engine to engine and vehicle to vehicle.

Why are most auto companies today proactively talking about safety?
Life is precious. India has one of the highest accident rates in the world, and accidents are largely caused by human error. So, only making safer cars is not the solution, we have to inculcate the right kind of driving habits, too—we call the process ‘behavioural change’. Don’t use phones while driving, don’t drink and drive, wear seatbelts, follow lane driving behaviour, and so on. That’s why we launched our safety campaign #BeTheBetterGuy more than a year ago to help build behavioural change among drivers.

Unlike a Maruti Suzuki which has its own driving school on a pan-India scale, Hyundai doesn’t have one on that scale. So, how will you implement this campaign, or teach new drivers such practices?
One part of better driving behaviour is to inculcate training, which some others are doing. Our focus, as I said, is on behavioural change, which doesn’t really require training—you don’t need training not to use the phone while driving, you don’t need training not to drink and drive, and wearing seatbelts also doesn’t require training. And a lot of accidents are caused due to these reasons. We want to attack the root cause of accidents, which is behaviour. #BeTheBetterGuy is a very ‘modish’ expression, unlike Maruti’s #PehniKya, which appears to connect to the masses… We have a very young customer base—their average age is 27 years. We want to connect with that population in ‘their lingo’. And we understand what that population understands. We are recognising them, we’re telling them that if you drive safely and properly, then you are different, that you’re the better guy.

Does the campaign have anything to do with the government’s new safety norms for passenger vehicles?
As a car manufacturer, it is our responsibility to create awareness among the masses towards safer driving habits. We have been doing that, and will continue to do so. Cars are getting faster and safer, but car drivers and passengers are not taking full advantage of the safety features on offer. They need to.

This week, Hyundai crossed the milestone of cumulative domestic sales of 50 lakh vehicles over its 20-year journey in India. What’s next?
We’ve been doing well. In September and October, we clocked ‘retail sales’ of 50,000 cars each month. The Grand i10, Elite i20 and Creta each have been selling about 10,000 units per month for quite some time, and since their launch these three have collectively sold 12.5 lakh units in India. Now, even the new Verna sedan that was launched in August is selling well. On the back of these products, I believe we would break the 50,000-unit sales target again in the month of December, with our year-end sales. In fact, in the four months of September-December 2017, we expect to clock total retail sales of over 2 lakh vehicles.

Will the Verna continue its sales success?
The Verna is designed to be a market leader. The earlier generation Verna was also a leader in its segment from 2011-13, before it underwent product fatigue. We believe the new Verna will continue its sales success run for a long time. In fact, the top two variants, SX and SX+, contribute more than 90% of the overall Verna sales, and 25% of its sales come from automatic transmission. It conforms to the fact that the Verna customer appreciates ease of driving and is willing to spend for the features that are not offered by the competition.

What is the diesel to petrol sales ratio of the Verna?
It’s 60:40 (diesel:petrol). As you go above the Rs 10 lakh price point, there’s an increasing preference towards diesel fuel.

What plans do you have for the Delhi Auto Expo next year?
We will be showcasing new technologies, including turbo engine technologies and maybe electric powertrains, and of course new designs.