The small, full-forward mini-pickup has become the visible face of the new Indian auto evolution—just like what the Maruti 800 and Omni vans managed about 20-30 years ago
There have been a lot of big-bang launches lately from the likes of Chevrolet and Ford. But what many might have missed is the rather low-key launch of the small goods- & people-carrier from Hinduja Ashok Leyland. Named the 'Dost', this lands up straight in Tata Ace territory, but with a bigger engine, bigger cabin, bigger tyres and bigger payload. The on-road cost, however, is close to that of the Tata Ace. And the man behind it, Dr V Sumantran, was there at Tata Motors for the Ace too. As Moneylife readers will know, this is a very interesting segment.
With the changing landscape in the non-Metro areas, this small all-products and passenger-carrier category, becomes an even more interesting upcountry vehicle. Take a drive anywhere in India and you will see how, from nowhere, the small full-forward cab kind of mini-pickup has become the visible face of automobile evolution in India-just like the Maruti 800 and Omni vans did about 20-30 years ago. Only, this lot, the Tata Ace, Hinduja AL Dost and similar vehicles, run on diesel and can lug a lot more. And retain resale value quite well, too.
Volvo trucks, which have an interesting joint venture with Eicher Motors for larger engines, are doing the same in India. After a decade and a bit more of a sort of monopoly in the luxury bus and high-powered trucks business, they are suddenly in the line of competition in this segment from India and abroad with Mercedes-Benz, MAN, Tata Daewoo Commercial, Hinduja Ashok Leyland—and that home-grown dark-horse, Asia Motor Works from Bhuj.
In a recent initiative, Volvo Eicher has tied up with specific engineering colleges in Mohali/Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Mysore to train young people in specific automobile fields. This is social responsibility with a vision and it is hoped that other manufacturers also do something similar soon, instead of constantly complaining about the lack of trained manpower.