Hybridisation for small cars and diesel-hybrid for larger cars could be the future for India

The recently conducted roundtable by Magneti Marelli hints at the future for hybrid vehicles as well as fully electric cars

By:Updated: March 22, 2017 1:01:48 PM
Pietro Gorlier and Saju Mookken addressing the media about the future of Magneti Marelli in India

Magneti Marelli, who has been a key supplier to Maruti Suzuki for its AMT gearbox is also known for its presence across the world in other key sectors such as lighting solutions, fabrication of instrument clusters, telematics as well as infotainment systems. The Italian component manufacturer is globally the largest in lighting solutions. The company has a total of 89 production plants with over 43,000 employees and in 2016, they had a turnover of 7.9 billion euros. They are also a key supplier in the motorsport segment to Formula 1 as all F1 cars have Magneti Marelli’s engine control and acquisition data (ECU, injectors, sensors etc) as well as electro-hydraulic systems. The company has also supplied, researched and developed KERS or Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) for F1 cars. In a roundtable with Pietro Gorlier, Chief Executive Officer, Magneti Marelli and Saju Mookken, Country Head and Managing Director, Magneti Marelli India (MMI), this is what the key takeaways for India are.

Q: One of the major business units of Magneti Marelli in India is the AMT gearbox. Could you give us a trend in the acceptability of the AMT gearbox in India and how do you see the future of the AMT.

A: The AMT or Automated Manual Transmission is a good, cost-effective solution for automation of the conventional manual transmission, particularly developing markets like India where the price point is very important. We see a couple of possible evolution stages of the AMT, one being the continuous development of a solution to reduce the cost of the AMT to make it even more competitive. We have then the evolution of the technology into the dual-clutch transmission which would be the next step to automatic transmission. And last but not the least, we have an important role to play in the hybridisation of the automatic gearbox. So, applying a 12-volt motor that provides a form of hybridisation for different modes in a hybrid engine so that the new transmissions are hybrid ready and also to lower the emissions.

So we see an evolution of the transmission but we still think it is a very efficient way to provide an automatic transmission to markets like India. Few years ago, there was less than two percent of automatic transmission in the market, but now, because of the AMT coming in, the automation pace has increased. And with this, many of the automobile makers in India apart from Maruti Suzuki and Tata are also discussing with us on how they can introduce AMT into their cars. We cannot currently disclose who we are in discussion with at the time being. Apart from Indian carmakers, our powertrain business has a good global presence like FCA or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Mazda, GM, Volkswagen and many others in the markets abroad.

Q: What is Magneti Marelli’s goal on the future of powertrain as we see it right now because electrification is happening at a fast pace but at the same time we are seeing efforts and the life of the conventional powertrain, what is Magneti Marelli’s outlook?

A: With the emission limits in the future, some sort of electrification of powertrain would be required. And we see probably increase in hybrids first but eventually towards fully electric vehicles. At one end most companies are starting the electrification of powertrains or mild hybrids and at the same time, some of the limits that are posed in some countries and the future what we think will be the requirement of having an electric vehicle infrastructure to some metro areas. This is the second approach and both are being looked into by all OEMs as well as car manufacturers across the globe. What is important to say is that the price point of electric vehicles will remain relatively high for the next five or seven years. So, we don’t see an immediate conversion to fully electrification of vehicles. Let’s not forget that there is a lot of scope for things to be done in terms of reducing the emissions of a conventional engine. For instance, high-pressure injectors or GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) provides a significant reduction in the emissions. So, also while the conventional engine keeps on changing or evolving with high-pressure injectors and all the technologies consistently being developed. We don’t see that one technology is going to be dropped instantly.

Magneti Marelli’s 5-speed AMT gearbox which is used in a number of mass market cars

Q: What do you think will happen to larger diesel vehicles and how soon will telematics become popular in India?

Small cars will first turn to hybrids later on moving to fully electric vehicles while larger vehicles will have some form of hybrid-diesel engines or powertrain. In terms of telematics our technology is ready and can be supplied to any car maker in India as long as there is acceptability with the buyer.

A significant part of the India business of Magneti Marelli is exports to Europe and other countries. In terms of connectivity, telematics will also be a part of future vehicles when potential customers will be keen on having a telematic system in their cars. A telematic system is a system which uses information regarding a vehicle’s health as well as keeps it secure and connected to a smartphone.

Q: Lastly, how do you see yourself in future and particularly which sectors, in terms of components, do you see majority growth?

The future of Magneti Marelli in India indicates more R&D and technical development centres which also hints at new technologies along with existing ones, being upgraded and move towards cleaner, environment-friendly vehicles. We are already discussing the possibilities of the AMT gearbox as well as other solutions with a number of other car manufacturers and acceptance for newer technologies amongst manufacturers as well as consumers is rising. For the end-user, possibilities of new and affordable technologies has just begun!

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