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Auto bosses head to India to charge up electric vehicle game plan

Amid festive fervour and the Indian car and truck market galloping toward a new peak, more than half a dozen global top auto executives are coming to India to help shape a new future game plan with a key focus on electric vehicles. They include top executives of Skoda Auto, Nissan and Daimler Truck AG.

ET has learnt that the entire Skoda Auto board led by CEO Klaus Zellmer is set to visit the country in October. Martin Daum, the chairman of Daimler Truck AG, and Karl Deppen, head of Daimler Truck Asia, will be visiting Chennai to celebrate 10 years of Bharat Benz in the country. Nissan Motor Co.’s second in command, global COO Ashwani Gupta, is expected to travel to India next month, after close to a dozen top officials of Renault Nissan Alliance visited in September to get a preliminary understanding of market dynamics to define the new phase of investment in the country.

To be sure, Toshihiro Suzuki, the global CEO of Suzuki Motor, was in India in August to celebrate 40 years of Maruti Suzuki. Stephan von Schuckmann, the EV head of global auto component major ZF, visited India recently to review local operations and devise strategy as the Indian market is transitioning to EVs faster than anticipated. According to people in the know, the board of Skoda Auto is visiting the country to review the market closely and finalise its next phase of investment under Project India 2.5 while putting in place a structure for its India 3.0 plans.

This entails a commitment to electric vehicles.

India is one of the fastest growing passenger vehicle markets and remains a vital region for the Volkswagen Group, a Skoda Auto Volkswagen India spokesperson told ET.

“We have laid a strong foundation here, and there is a clear focus on transformation and digitalisation to maintain this momentum and match the evolving trends,” the spokesperson said. “We are gearing up to move towards the next phase of our growth journey.”

India is one of the top three markets for Škoda Auto and it’s becoming a strategic hub for global operations.

Nissan Motor is expected to make an announcement on its next phase of investment in the country along with alliance partner Renault to help the Japanese automaker boost its product portfolio with a key focus on EVs.

With the energy crisis in Europe triggered by the Ukraine war, China slowing and the threat of recession looming in the US, India appears to be one of the rare bright spots.

Global consulting firm S&P Mobility expects India to cross a major milestone of 5 million units in light vehicle output in 2022 with the market expected to become the fourth largest in the world this year.

“India is amongst the very few major markets in the world that has grown in strong double digits for two years in a row and this is at a time when the majority of the global markets are witnessing a significant slowdown,” said Gaurav Vangaal, associate director, light vehicle production forecasting at S&P Global Mobility. “India definitely remains a key discussion point amongst every global boardroom.”

In an email response, a Nissan Motor India spokesperson said, “These are business as usual meetings held by our management to plan for the next fiscal year. We will update you on any investments or milestones scheduled or planned in the coming months appropriately.”

A Daimler India spokesperson said the purpose of the visit is to celebrate 10 years of Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) and Bharat Benz with employees, partners and stakeholders and review the business and discuss strategy for the way forward.

“The objective is to interact with the market drivers closely to get to know the changing landscape and requirements of the market as the industry is changing,” the spokesperson said. “Daimler Truck and DICV are in the transformational mode and his visit here will boost the morale of the people and will give DICV first hand info on his vision and direction.”

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