Commercial vehicle makers are overlooking retail customers for their line-up of tailor-made electric vehicles for institutional buyers, who are looking to meet their needs for last mile connectivity.
Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, two of India’s top three truck and bus makers, are holding talks with large fleet buyers, courier delivery companies, FMCG companies, and e-commerce and logistics services providers for developing vehicles that suit their needs.
Originally showcased in May last year, the Tata Ace EV, a mini electric truck developed on the successful Ace platform, cannot be bought by single unit buyers from the retail segment. The vehicle was developed in collaboration with its users.
Tata Motors is unlikely to open bookings for the Ace EV for retail buyers anytime soon, according to company officials, since the company wants to test the product with large fleet operators first.
Speaking to FE, Girish Wagh, executive director, Tata Motors, said, “The Ace EV has exceeded expectations and we got a lot of customers joining the bandwagon. Initially, it was e-commerce-led, but now we have almost all the FMCG companies joining in. We have delivery companies, courier companies who are also very keen on the product.”
While the Ace EV is meeting the needs of last-mile delivery, fleet buyers are seeking slightly bigger EVs with heavier payloads for transporting goods before the last mile connectivity.
“Many such fleet buyers have shown interest in our electric ILCV (intermediate and light commercial vehicle) products, too, which we showcased at the Auto Expo,” said a Tata Motors source. Amazon, Delhivery, DHL (Express and supply chain), FedEx, Flipkart, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, MoEVing, Safexpress and Trent are some of the customers for the electric Ace.
Chennai-based Ashok Leyland has committed to launch the electric version of Dost, a slightly bigger light truck compared to the Tata Ace EV, in the next few months. The Hinduja Group flagship is also going after fleet buyers for the first round of the product’s debut.
N Sarvanan, chief technology officer, Ashok Leyland, said, “Fleet buyers like Amazon finalise the pricing before giving the vehicles to the fleet customers. It makes sense from the pricing perspective to work with institutional buyers.”
Besides the Dost EV, Ashok Leyland showcased another vehicle with an electric powertrain at the Auto Expo which could be on its way to the market. The Boss EV is a 12-tonne aluminium body ICV with a range of 350km.
Car market leader Maruti Suzuki has quietly developed the market for its only commercial vehicle, Super Carry, over the last few years. Available in petrol and CNG fuel options, the Super Carry may get electric variants in near future.
Hisashi Takeuchi, managing director and CEO, Maruti Suzuki, said, “Electrification for this sector will be required in future because big cities may introduce some limitations for ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. There will be a need for an electric small commercial vehicle for the last mile. We need to watch this space and if necessary, we should develop it for this segment.”