Indian Automotive Industry – Lightweighting Scenario
Lightweighting has been repeatedly touted as one of the most-favored OEM strategies to meet the stricter deadlines and demands of the future business, especially considering the increased regulations over emissions, fuel efficiency and safety standards. Globally, lightweighting has been progressively making its way in the design DNA for OEMs as well as suppliers. As a result, the increase in kerb weight of cars for European and American markets, year-on-year, has been decreasing and stabilizing. However, the Indian automotive industry has traditionally been a mass market segment, especially in the A & B segment cars. For decades, the largest selling cars in India were the entry segment cars and were aimed at a customer segment, which was mileage-hungry. Hence the OEMs produced extremely light vehicles with turbocharged engines that made the final kerb weight of the vehicle stay well below 1,000 kgs. Not surprisingly, lightweighting per se was not a separate requirement for the Indian automotive industry, and weight reduction was therefore seen mostly as a kaizen* (Japanese business philosopy of continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency) activity once the initial car was launched. The philosophy of 1 part - 1-gram weight reduction ingrained deeply in the vendor development thereafter was the major driving force towards knocking off mass sequentially.
However, the past 3-4 years have led to the rise of optional content in the Indian cars. This is partly driven by the rise of dispensable income for Indian customers and the rise in expectations in terms of the features in the car. The launch and growth of the MPV segment is another driver where customers are now expecting the cars to be bigger, feature-rich and with better driving experience. All this, while mileage expectations of the customers have remained the same and emissions and safety standards have grown even tighter along the global norms. Also, given that most Indian car models nowadays resemble/match their global launch cousins, feature additions and therefore the weight must be on a par with global levels. The cost vs weight vs features vs norms conundrum is what is making the Indian automotive market a true mystery, and lightweighting can be a true hero to the rescue.
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