“One Industry, One Voice, One Day” – Commercial Vehicle Forum, did it again.

The number of speakers doubled to 60 from the 2017 event, delegate attendance grew from 250 to 350, and the number of partners also doubled from 25 to 50.

CVF 2018 Chairman – Mr. Erich Nesselhauf, Managing Director & CEO of Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, opened proceedings with a stirring keynote in which he pulled no punches over India’s continuing tolerance of the chronic impediments that hamstring the industry and prevent it from achieving the potential that Daimler, he said, remains convinced it possesses.

On the one hand a growing number of transporters are breaking through the 20,000 km per month barrier with their trucks, approaching European levels of utilisation; on the other, it’s still impossible for a pan-India fleet owner to register a vehicle in Delhi online from Chennai, he said. Moreover, up to 30 million litres of diesel are burnt every year driving new vehicles to customers because of the woeful lack of truck-on-truck transportation.

Nesselhauf also flagged the inadequacy of export infrastructure for a globally orientated business such as DICV’s, the location of India’s only deepwater port (Adani) hundreds of kilometres from any of the truckmakers necessitating expensive and time-consuming transhipment in Singapore of DICV’s exports to Latin America, for example.

He was also categorical in his criticism of the interminable delay in notification of the truck code, which he said “takes away business” from DICV, a company that has – so far, at any rate – refused to compromise on driver comfort and safety, a stand its domestic rivals haven’t emulated with any enthusiasm because there’s just no force of mandate.

He wasn’t all critical, however. Looking ahead to BS-VI in “706 days”, Nesselhauf called the imminent dawn of the stringent Euro-standard emission norm “the biggest opportunity” for DICV to make the sales breakthrough it has long sought. But not only for DICV or its European-transplant counterparts; here, he pointed out, was an unexampled opportunity for India’s engineers to rise and deliver a global level of technology output — not just for their own market but, indeed, for the world.

Don’t look to the world outside for help, he admonished his audience. No country has more engineers than India, and, indeed, more engineers working for foreign countries. “It’s time now that Indian engineers develop world-leading technologies, rather than look to the West for assistance to meet the bare minimum requirements of BS-VI.”

The subsequent Keynote Panel Discussion debated just how pervasive the vehicle utilisation gains by some fleets has the potential to become — given a whole catalogue of peculiar constraints, such as restrictions on the movement of trucks within some cities.

The BS-VI debate brought out the peculiar problems that OEMs are going to have to gird up to address, problems that no truck maker has had any experience with anywhere else in the world. For one, there are failure modes unique to Indian conditions, Dr. Venkat Srinivas, Principal Chief Engineer and Head of Product Development at Mahindra Truck & Bus, pointed out.

But before the industry can get there it has to overcome a more fundamental existential crisis — and this has to do with whether (and just how much) to invest in simultaneous BS-VI combustion-engine and electric powertrain development given the government’s series of policy flip-flops on the latter.

A dilemma Mr. Erich Nesselhauf had pointedly alluded to in his speech earlier: “How does one do business in a country where there are no clear guidelines for the future?”

The above comment best exemplifies the event’s format that emphasises on candid discussions on topics of wide industry interest and provoking conversations that matter.

To do justice to the perplexing diversity of issues that confront the industry today in a dynamic, nay volatile, domestic and international regulatory environment the likes of which we’ve never seen, the conference was split into two parallel tracks. One focused on core industry topics such as BS-VI, Electric Vehicles, and Vehicle Ergonomics and Safety, while the accent in the End User Applications track was on Tech transforming Supply Chains, Digital Connectivity, and the possibilities afforded by GST and the rapid expansion in road infrastructure.

The breadth of topics had been selected by running a 2 month long survey with CV industry professionals reflecting the organisers commitment to create an event that is “By the CV industry, For the CV industry.”

The forum ended on a positive note and prominent comment from most of the delegates, speakers and partners to sum up the proceedings was “One Industry, One Voice, One Day”.

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