By APA Bureau:
Chennai-headquartered Wheels India, part of the TVS Group, is planning to manufacture cabins for construction and mining equipment. These cabins will be primarily for multinational OEMs operating in India and for exports, Srivats Ram, Managing Director of the company, said. The cabins will be manufactured at one of its satellite plants in Chennai.
He told AutoParts Asia that the company has been supporting the wheels requirements of the mining and construction equipment industry. The company holds about 20 percent market share, globally, outside of China, in the wheels for mining and construction equipment. It is also manufacturing body unit for this equipment. Bodies for dumper manufactured by Wheels India go to domestic customers, however, half of these equipment are exported. In addition, the company has been catering to the specific requirements of windmills and railways.
Catering to the automotive industry has been the prime focus of the company since it was established in 1962. The company has been a partner with several Indian and global OEMs including Ford, Hyundai, Tata Motors, Caterpillar, John Deere, Komatsu, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Case New Holland, Ashok Leyland, Tafe and Suzuki.
At the recently-concluded Auto Expo Components Show the company showcased several new technological solutions that the vehicle manufacturers have been looking for. Ram said, “Our objective to participate in the show was on two counts. One, to look at where we have been able to engineer solutions to overcome problems that people have due to various applications. Accordingly, one part of our exhibits was related to different designs that we have come up with, to overcome problems of customers.” For instance, the company displayed steel wheels that look like aluminium wheels. There was also another wheel that has been redesigned to take a bigger brake drum.
The second focus area was on light-weighting. In addition to wheels, the company has also displayed its prowess in electronics. Among its products on show, Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) and electronic level-regulation valve fascinated the visitors the most. It displayed also tyre-pressure monitoring system, among others.
The company has recast itself to an organisation providing solutions for wheels and suspensions from a mere wheel manufacturer. Elaborating on the company’s engineering solutions, Ram said the requests come from automotive manufacturers and they are primarily on light-weighting. Sometimes they require solutions to manage heating of adjacent components. For instance, there were enquiries to manage the heat from brakes by providing better ventilation and increasing brake drum clearance, so that the component is cooled adequately. In this scenario, “We are able to come up with a new process and a new construction of the wheel that allow more space. These are specific solutions for specific problems. These kinds of problems are faced by different OEMs in varied applications. So we are able to build up a base on engineering solutions.”
On the steel wheel that looks like aluminium he said, the company has manufactured it in such a way that is unique. Typically, when a wheel cover is placed on top of a typical steel wheel, the wheel will be visible. In this case, the wheel will not be visible due to its style element and being a high-ventilated wheel. “We have commenced supply of these kinds of wheels to some customers. These are options given by us – stylish steel wheels or steel wheels that look somewhat better,” he said.
The company also displayed a product that it has been exporting – ‘custom ordered forged aluminium wheel.’ The customers of SUVs in the North American market, spend large sums of money in upgrading and making improvements in their own vehicles. The plus-sizing is prevalent in the US aftermarket and therefore, Wheels India has been manufacturing similar kinds of wheels and sending them to the customers. As a sample it displayed a 26-inch wheel meant for SUVs, which is larger than the wheel of a truck in India.
“We have an interesting option in this division of the business. The distributor gives an option to the customer of different designs for a certain fitment. When the customers place the order, the wheels are machined and sent to them by courier within 48 hours. These are highly customisable to the extent that the wheels can have the customers’ initials on them,” he said.
On the response to the exhibits, he said some of the passenger car OEMs were interested in the displayed products, though they were mainly for commercial vehicles. “Wheels India has different parts to its business. The suspension business is primarily for the commercial vehicles and buses while the car business covers the entire spectrum. When you put it together, the possibility of the riding segments having one product that can be implied in another, come up. I think in a comparative environment where people are looking at different products, to differentiate themselves, there is an option to use some of the concepts and technologies showcased at the exhibition,” he said.
On the ECAS, Ram said, the unit offers kneeling options in front, rear, left and right side of the vehicle. Besides, it can raise and lower the entire vehicle, which could probably help the utility vehicles that may go off-road. Due to want of space the company displayed a working mode. It has commenced commercial production for one of the OEMs. “Tempo Traveller uses a version of it. We have retrofitted it on some of the high-end buses. We work closely with the end-customers of buses. We also work with coach builders,” he said.
On supplying wheels to the passenger car OEMs, he said the business has been good last year and we see it continuing in the years to come. All the segments are doing quite well. It is surprising to see the amount of upswing and perhaps it is due to the fact that it is coming after about four years of successive slowdown.
Wheels India had announced a strategic partnership with Topy Industries, Japan, for its passenger car steel wheels business in India. Topy acquired 26 percent stake in Wheels India Cars Wheels (WCWL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wheels India. WCWL was set up by Wheels India to enter the passenger car steel wheel business in India. The joint venture company is setting up a new plant in Vanad, Gujarat at an investment of Rs 42 crore. The green field facility will have an annual production capacity of 1.5 million steel wheels for cars. The plant will begin production during the current calendar year.