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Analysis of India’s Automobile Industry

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Published: Tue, 06 Mar 2018

Following India’s growing openness, the arrival of new and existing models, easy availability of finance at relatively low rate of interest and price discounts offered by the dealers and manufacturers all have stirred the demand for vehicles and a strong growth of the Indian automobile industry. The data obtained from ministry of commerce and industry, shows high growth obtained since 2001- 02 in automobile production continuing in the first three quarters of the 2004-05. Annual growth was 16.0 per cent in April-December, 2004; the growth rate in 2003-04 was 15.1 per cent The automobile industry grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22 per cent between 1992 and 1997. With investment exceeding Rs. 50,000 crore, the turnover of the automobile industry exceeded Rs. 59,518 crore in 2002-03. Including turnover of the auto-component sector, the automotive industry’s turnover, which was above Rs. 84,000 crore in 2002-03, is estimated to have exceeded Rs.1,00,000 crore ( USD 22. 74 billion) in 2003-04. Automobile Dealers Network in India.

In terms of Car dealer networks and authorized service stations, Maruti leads the pack with Dealer networks and workshops across the country. The other leading automobile manufacturers are also trying to cope up and are opening their service stations and dealer workshops in all the metros and major cities of the country. Dealers offer varying kind of discount of finances who in turn pass it on to the customers in the form of reduced interest rates.

Major Manufacturers in Automobile Industry

  • Maruti Udyog Ltd.
  • General Motors India
  • Ford India Ltd.
  • Eicher Motors
  • Bajaj Auto
  • Daewoo Motors India
  • Hero Motors
  • Hindustan Motors
  • Hyundai Motor India Ltd.
  • Royal Enfield Motors
  • Telco
  • TVS Motors
  • DC Designs
  • Swaraj Mazda Ltd

Government has liberalized the norms for foreign investment and import of technology and that appears to have benefited the automobile sector. The production of total vehicles increased from 4.2 million in 1998- 99 to 7.3 million in 2003-04. It is likely that the production of such vehicles will exceed 10 million in the next couple of years.

The industry has adopted the global standards and this was manifested in the increasing exports of the sector. After a temporary slump during 1998- 99 and 1999-00, such exports registered robust growth rates of well over 50 per cent in 2002-03 and 2003-04 each to exceed two and- a-half times the export figure for 2001-02.

The Key Factors Behind This Upswing

Sales incentives, introduction of new models as well as variants coupled with easy availability of low cost finance with comfortable repayment options continued to drive demand and sales of automobiles during the first two quarters of the current year. The risk of an increase in the interest rates, the impact of delayed monsoons on rural demand, and increase in the costs of inputs such as steel are the key concerns for the players in the industry.

As the players continue to introduce new models and variants, the competition may intensify further. The ability of the players to contain costs and focus on exports will be critical for the performance of their respective companies.

LITERATURE REVIEW

As noted by NMCC (2006), competitiveness of manufacturing sector is a very broad

Multi-dimensional concept that embraces numerous aspects such as price, quality,

Productivity, Efficiency and macro-economic environment. The OECD definition of Competitiveness, which is most widely quoted, also considers employment and sustainability, while being exposed to international competition, as features pertaining to competitiveness. There are numerous studies on auto industry in India, published by industry associations, consultancy organisations, research bodies and peer-reviewed journals. In this section, various studies on the Indian auto industry are reviewed, under different heads pertaining to competitiveness, namely, global comparisons, policy environment and evolution of the Indian auto industry, productivity, aspects related to supply-chain and industrial structure and technology and other aspects.

Global Comparisons

The Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency of India (ICRA, 2003) studies the competitiveness of the Indian auto industry, by global comparisons of macro environment, policies and cost structure. This has a detailed account on the evolution of the global auto industry. The United States was the first major player from 1900 to 1960, after which Japan took its place as the cost-efficient leader. Cost efficiency being the only real means in as mature an industry as automobiles to retain or improve market share, global auto manufacturers have been sourcing from the developing countries. India and China have emerged as favourite destinations for the first-tier OEMs since late 1980s.There are only a few dominant Indian OEMs, while the number of OEMs is very large in China (122 car manufacturers and 120 motorcycle manufacturers). According to this study, the major advantage of the Indian economy is educated and skilled workforce with knowledge of English. Our disadvantages include poor infrastructure, complicated tax structure, inflexible labour laws, inter-state policy differences and inconsistencies. The drivers of Chinese economic growth are FDI, labour productivity growth, which was 1.5 times higher than that in India in the last decade, and domestic demand. Fiscal pressure is mounting on the Chinese government, while India is in a better state. Based on comparisons of cost composition to pinpoint the areas in which the Indian auto industry is at a disadvantage, this study recommends a VAT regime, speedy procedures, imports duty cuts on raw materials, common testing and design facility, labour reforms, up gradation of design and engineering capabilities and brand building.

ICRA (2004a) analyses the implications of the India-ASEAN5 Free Trade Agreements for the Indian automotive industry. ASEAN economies are globally more integrated than India. The current size of Indian and ASEAN market for automobiles is more or less the same but the Indian market has a larger growth potential than the ASEAN market due to the low level of penetration. The labour cost is low in India but the stringent labour regulations erode this advantage. The level of infrastructure is better in India than Indonesia and the Philippines but worse than that in other ASEAN countries. The financial and banking sector is better in India than in the ASEAN countries. The study notes that there is a huge excess capacity in ASEAN countries, in comparison with that in India, which will help them to tackle the excess demand that may arise in future. The study finds a 20-30 per cent cost disadvantage for Indian companies on account of taxation and infrastructure and 5-20 per cent labour cost advantage over comparable

ASEAN-member-based companies. Similar findings are noted in a study by the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA, 2004), particularly in comparison with Thailand.

ICRA (2004b) analyses the impact of Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with MERCOSUR on the automobile sector in India. This study finds a significant threat of imports in sub-compact and compact cars and certain auto-components. There is huge excess capacity and intense competition in MERCOSUR countries, propelling them to look for export opportunities. This is true especially of Brazil, which has a well developed auto-component sector with huge economies of scale. Further, weak currency in all MERCOSUR countries provides a natural tariff barrier. In addition, MERCOSUR countries have an equitable arrangement within themselves to have a balanced trade, with fair level of exports and imports. The Indian auto industry could gain from this PTA with MERCOSUR only if it is assured of the balanced trade, as MERCOSUR countries practise among themselves.

ICRA (2005) studies the possible impact of FTA with South Africa on the Indian automobile industry. The study finds that there are a few policies in South Africa that indirectly subsidise the auto industry, unlike India, in terms of financial grants. Hence it is suggested that India could minimise losses only if it goes for inclusion of certain auto components, which involve huge logistic costs of imports, creating a natural protection (for example, stampings, glass, seats, plastics and tyres) and those in which India enjoys economies of scale and is cost-competitive (e.g. castings and forgings) in this FTA. If South Africa is ready to discontinue the schemes such as Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP), India could include all automotive components in this FTA. There should be a minimum local content of 60 per cent and the agreement should not be trade balancing as India will not gain much in that case.

Policy Environment and Evolution of Indian Auto Industry

In this section, studies on the policy environment pertaining to the Indian auto industry and its evolution over the years have been reviewed.

Pingle (2000) reviews the policy framework of India’s automobile industry and its impact on its growth. While the ties between bureaucrats and the managers of state-owned enterprises played a positive role especially since the late 1980s, ties between politicians and industrialists and between politicians and labour leaders have impeded the growth. The first phase of 1940s and 1950s was characterised by socialist ideology and vested interests, resulting in protection to the domestic auto industry and entry barriers for foreign firms. There was a good relationship between politicians and industrialists in this phase, but bureaucrats played little role. Development of ancillaries segment as recommended by the L.K. Jha Committee report in 1960 was a major event that took place towards the end of this phase. During the second phase of rules, regulations and politics, many political developments and economic problems affected the auto industry, especially passenger cars segment, in the 1960s and 1970s. Though politicians picked winners and losers mainly by licensing production, this situation changed with oil crises and other related political and macro-economic constraints. The third phase starting in the early 1980s was characterised by delicensing, liberalisation and opening up of FDI in the auto sector. These policies resulted in the establishment of new LCV manufacturers (for example, Swaraj Mazda, DCM Toyota) and passenger car manufacturers.7 All these developments led to structural changes in the Indian auto industry. Pingle argues that state intervention and ownership need not imply poor results and performance, as demonstrated by Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL). Further, the noncontractual relations between bureaucrats and MUL dictated most of the policies in the 1980s, which were biased towards passenger cars and MUL in particular.

However, D’Costa (2002) argues that MUL’s success is not particularly attributable to the support from bureaucrats. Rather, any firm that is as good as MUL in terms of scale economies, first-comer advantage, affordability, product novelty, consumer choice, financing schemes and extensive servicing networks would have performed as well, even in the absence of bureaucratic support. D’Costa has other criticisms about Pingle (2000). The major shortcoming of Pingle’s study is that it ignores the issues related to sectorspecific technologies and regional differences across the country.

Piplai (2001) examines the effects of liberalisation on the Indian vehicle industry, in terms of production, marketing, export, technology tie-up, product upgradation and profitability. Till the 1940s, the Indian auto industry was non-existent, since automobile were imported from General Motors and Ford. In early 1940s, Hindustan Motors and Premier Auto started, by importing know-how from General Motors and Fiat respectively. Since the 1950s, a few other companies entered the market for two-wheelers and commercial vehicles. However, most of them either imported or indigenously produced auto-components, till the mid-1950s, when India had launched import substitution programme, thereby resulting in a distinctly separate auto-component sector. Due to the high degree of regulation and protection in the 1970s and 1980s, the reforms in the early 1990s had led to a boom in the auto industry till 1996, but the response of the industry in terms of massive expansion of capacities and entry of multinationals led to an acute over-capacity. Intense competition had led to price wars and aggressive cost-cutting measures including layoffs and large-scale retrenchment. While Indian companies started focusing on the price-sensitive commercially used vehicles, foreign companies continued utilizing their expertise on technology-intensive vehicles for individual and corporate uses. Thus, Piplai concludes that vehicle industry has not gained much from the reforms, other than being thrusted upon a high degree of unsustainable competition. In August 2006, a Draft of Automotive Mission Plan Statement prepared in consultation with the industry was released by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. This was finally released as a report in December 2006. This document draws an action plan to take the turnover of the automotive industry in India to US$145 billion by 2016, accounting for more than 10 per cent of the GDP and providing additional employment to 25 million people, by 2016. A special emphasis is laid on small cars, MUVs, two-wheelers and auto-components. Measures suggested include setting up of a National Auto Institute, streamlining government/educational/research institutions to the needs of the auto industry, upgrading infrastructure, considering changes in duty structure and fiscal incentives for R&D.

Similarly, NMCC (2006), which lays down a national strategy for manufacturing, recognises the importance of the Indian automobile and auto-component industry, particularly the latter, as a competitive knowledge-based industry with immense employment generation potential.

McKinsey (2005) predicts the growth potential of India-based automotive component manufacturing at around 500 per cent, from 2005 to 2015. This report describes the initiatives required from industry players, the Government and the ACMA to capture this potential. This study was based on interviews and workshops with 20 suppliers and 7 OEMs and survey with ACMA members. Increase in cost pressures on OEMs in developed countries, coupled with the emergence of skilled, cost-competitive suppliers in Low Cost Countries (LCCs), is likely to facilitate further acceleration of sourcing of automotive components from LCCs. The analysis identifies strong engineering skills and an emerging culture of cost-competitiveness as the major strengths of the Indian auto component sector, while its weaknesses include slow growth in domestic demand and structural disadvantages such as power tariffs and indirect taxes. The policy recommendations of this study include VAT implementation, lower indirect taxes, power reforms, tax benefits linked to export earnings, duty-cut for raw material imports, R&D incentives for a longer period, establishment of auto parks, benefits for export-seeking investments, human resources development and modernisation fund for new investments in auto clusters. Industry players have been advised to improve their operational performance, determine their strategic posture as one among those identified in the study, improve capabilities in line with their posture and invest very rapidly in a planned manner. ACMA needs to promote India as a brand, enable sourcing from India by global customers and promote the quality and productivity efforts of the auto component firms in India.

ACMA (2006) notes that India’s joining the WP (Working Party) 29: 1998 Agreement for global harmonisation of automotive standards, coupled with the funding of National Automotive Testing and Research Infrastructure Project (NATRIP) by the Government of India, has increased prospects of the Indian auto industry rising up to global standards in the near future, in all aspects.

Narayanan (1998) analyses the effects of deregulation policy on technology acquisition and competitiveness in the Indian automobile industry during the 1980s and finds that competitiveness has depended on the ability to build technological advantages, even in an era of capacity-licensing. In a liberalised regime, this would depend on firms’ ability to bring about technological changes, as inferred from the behaviour of new firms in the sample considered. Further, vertical integration could score over subcontracting in a liberal regime. This is probably because of the entry of new foreign firms that produce technologically superior and guaranteed quality vehicles and choose to produce most of the components in-house.8 Narayanan (2004) analyses the determinants of growth of Indian automobile firms during three different policy regimes, namely, licensing (1980-81 to 1984-85), deregulation (1985-86 to 1990-91) and liberalisation (1991-92 to 1995-96). Un like the prediction by Narayanan (1998), this study finds that vertical integration is detrimental for growth in a liberalised regime as it potentially limits diversification. Narayanan (2006) also finds that vertical integration plays a positive role in a regulated regime, while it is not conducive for export competitiveness in a liberal regime.

Kathuria (1995) notes that the time-bound indigenization programme for commercial vehicles in the 1980s facilitated the upgradation of vendor skills and modifying vehicles to suit local conditions, which demand functional efficiency, overloading capabilities, fuel economy, frequent changes in speed and easy repair and maintenance. Kathuria also mentions that the choice between vertical integration and subcontracting crucially depends on the policy regime: In a liberal regime, vertical integration may not work.

Productivity

Sharma (2006) analyses the performance of the Indian auto industry with respect to the productivity growth. Partial and total factor productivity of the Indian automobile industry have been calculated for the period from 1990-91 to 2003-04, using the Divisia- Tornquist index for the estimation of the total factor productivity growth. The author finds that the domestic auto industry has registered a negative and insignificant productivity growth during the last one and a half decade. Among the partial factor productivity indices only labour productivity has seen a significant improvement, while the productivity of other three inputs (capital, energy and materials) haven’t shown any significant improvement. Labour productivity has increased mainly due to the increase in the capital intensity, which has grown at a rate of 0.14 per cent per annum from 1990-91 to 2003-04.

Aspects Related to Supply Chain and Industrial Structure

In this section, the studies that examine the aspects pertaining to local and global auto supply chains as well as the structure of the Indian auto industry are reviewed.

Humphrey (1999) compares the impact of globalisation on supply chain networks in the auto industry in Brazil and India. According to Humphrey, global auto industry hubs were situated in three regions, namely, North America, Western Europe and Japan. Brazil and India are examples of the countries which could develop the indigenous auto industry despite not being situated very close to any of these regions. Hence, Humphrey compares the auto industries in these two countries. This study considers auto industry as a producer-driven commodity chain, wherein global auto assemblers control the entire supply chain from components to dealerships. While the global auto assembly majors used to produce 60-70 per cent of the value inhouse till the 1980s, various phenomenal developments have started taking place since the 1980s, such as the emergence of independent dealers and rise of catalogue suppliers who supply their standard and indigenously designed components/modules to many assemblers. Brazil and India had liberalised auto investments and tariff structure since 1990. Prior to 1991, India had a much more protectionist regime than Brazil, in terms of licensing and quantitative restrictions on both imports and domestic production. Inflows of auto FDI occurred in both the countries since the mid-1990s. Further, Brazil and India have emerged as preferred suppliers for global auto assemblers. When the global auto assemblers entered India and Brazil, the phenomenon of ‘follow-source’ was also happening. Now, there are parallel global networks of both assemblers and Tier-1 suppliers. Even Indian component suppliers have opportunities to enter the global auto supply chains, mainly in low technology products made to detailed drawings but the space for domestic industry is diminishing. With the global centralization of product engineering, skill requirements are likely to be immense in process engineering, particularly in assemblers and Tier-1 component manufacturers.

Sutton (2000) compares the auto-component supply chains in India and China, based on field surveys. In both these countries, the supply chain has developed very rapidly at the level of car makers and Tier-1 suppliers, with quality levels close to world standards, largely driven by the entry of multinational car makers. But, the Tier-2 suppliers are still not up to the global standards. The domestic content requirements, based on the infant industry argument, have helped the international car makers in enhancing the production capabilities of the domestic players effectively, as shown by increases in auto-component exports from India and China. Of the top ten exporting firms in India and China, five and six are domestic ones, respectively. Enhanced supply-chain capabilities have benefited the domestic auto-makers as well, such as Mahindra and Mahindra in India, who have been able to capture a sizeable market share with their indigenously designed and assembled MUV. Some leading component producers in China and India strategically use highly capital intensive techniques such as robotics, occasionally, despite the low wages, mainly on account of their concerns to achieve high levels of quality. This in combination with employing high-quality workforce even at shop floor is another strategic choice of a few leading firms in India, to promote exports. Many Tier-1 firms follow the standard

Japanese work practices to improve quality and minimise costs. Interactions between carmakers and component suppliers have also helped the latter improve quality.

Addressing a larger question of the impact of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) on the domestic industry and economy, Tewari (2000) studies the automotive supply chain of Tamil Nadu, based on field surveys. Studies such as Humphrey (1999) show that entry of global auto majors in India and Brazil have impeded domestic firms, while this study shows evidence for the fact that medium-sized firms, which entered in the mid-1990s in Tamil Nadu have formed networks with smaller domestic suppliers and helped them upgrade their technologies. These medium-sized suppliers require more support from the government, since they play a crucial role in facilitating the development of the domestic auto industry. Joint ventures and technical tie-ups with overseas suppliers have been the strategies that were followed by well-performing auto component manufacturers, long before the global auto majors entered India. These relationships and the entry of foreign OEMs not only promote employment and income, but also diffusion of technologies and knowledge to the entire supply chain, including smaller firms.

Veloso and Kumar (2002) provide an overview of the major trends taking place in the global automotive industry, emphasising on the Asian market. Consumer preferences, government regulations and intense competition have been driving the firms towards new technologies, modernisation, research and changes in design and production. Market saturation in Triad regions (the United States, Western Europe and Japan) and rapid emergence of markets in Asia have led to increasing diversity in market needs. As a result, there are many models and segments coming up rapidly. Auto majors have started adopting a global perspective and reorganising their vehicle portfolio around product platforms, modules and systems. They are also minimising the number of suppliers, by opting for bigger ones, based on cost and quality competitiveness, R&D capacity and proximity to development centres. Mergers and acquisitions are taking place for consolidation. Suppliers have been taking new roles, as systems integrators, global standardiser-systems manufacturers, component specialists and raw material suppliers. These roles are based on their focus, market presence, critical capabilities and types of components and systems. The automobile industry in India had been facing the problem of overcapacity by 2000 and the auto-component sector was not so developed as to be able to deliver products of world-class quality. Chinese tariff and quota policies, coupled with local content regulations protect the auto industry in China immensely. However, the Chinese auto industry suffers from fragmentation, lower quality, lack of technological upgradation and managerial skills. Consolidation and liberalisation that are happening recently in China are expected to promote its auto industry. Auto industries in the ASEAN and Korea have recovered quickly from the Asian crisis of 1998. This report concludes with some aspects that any study on auto sector should focus on, such as evaluation of the capabilities of auto-component supply chain – both large and small suppliers, strategies of OEMs, cost, delivery, dependability, quality, product development, process development, flexibility, facilities/equipment, technology, process, workforce and organisation, logistics and supply chain, research and engineering and interfaces.

ACMA (2006) presents the recent trends in the Indian auto industry as a whole and their implications for automotive supply chain in India. The market-oriented growth and growing automobile industry in India have ensured bright prospects for the Indian autocomponent sector, which is vibrant and competitive. Huge future growth potential of the automobile industry and increased access to consumer finance may lead India to a place among the top five automotive economies by 2025. Most of the ACMA members have at least one standards certification. They are embracing world-class modern shop-floor practices. The auto-component sector has been showing high rates of growth ofproduction and exports, with a comprehensive production range, transforming as an attractive OEMs Tier-1 supplier. Many leading OEMs and Tier-1 companies have plans of sourcing from Indian auto-component manufacturers, who are scaling up, establishing partnerships in India and abroad, acquiring foreign companies and establishing Greenfield investments overseas. Proficiency in understanding technical drawings, understanding of different global standards, appropriate automation, flexibility in small-batch production and use of Information Technology (IT) for design, development and simulation are some of the growing capabilities among Indian auto-component manufacturers. India is expected to emerge as the next big automotive R&D base, given its IT capabilities coupled with automotive domain knowledge and shifting of automotive design centres to India, by global MNCs, as it is a potentially excellent base for prototyping, testing, validating and producing auto-components.

Technology and Other Aspects

Kathuria (1996) analyses the Commercial Vehicles (CV) industry in India in a detailed manner, dwelling on the concepts of vertical integration and subcontracting, production technology and technological change. After an overview of the global auto industry, Kathuria traces the developments in the Indian auto industry from the 1950s to 1991. To evaluate the competitiveness of Indian commercial vehicles manufacturers in the domestic market, growth trends, structural trends, market shares, profitability, productivity ratios, prices, quality, dealer network and performance are analysed. Macro and micro performance of India’s vehicle exports with major markets and Indian vehicle characteristics have been outlined, along with an analysis of global demand patterns. Domestic resource costs and global comparison of prices, credit and service are the other international trade-related aspects analysed in this study. On vertical integration, the analysis leads to the conclusion that the Indian CV industry needs to learn from the international experience to get into subcontracting and buying-in. Lack of scales and high inventories had impeded the competitiveness of Indian CV firms in the 1980s.

R&D capabilities and new product ranges were the result of the challenges arising from time-bound indigenisation programme, but still Indian technology frontier remained far below global levels. Further, different firms have followed very different strategies and hence the impacts on their technological capabilities were also very different. However, success of Indian firms despite such a wide range of strategies is partly due to the protection available to them in the domestic market. Kathuria concludes that the Indian auto industry in general and CV industry in particular, have a lot to learn from the global auto industry, in terms of best-practice technology and vertical integration and supplier relationship. The study rightly predicted that the industry would see heightened activity and recommended that the government should ensure that the domestic firms do not lose out because of the unrestricted entry of highly competitive foreign firms.

Narayanan (1998) finds that during the 1980s, technology acquisition through imports of technology and in-house R&D efforts explains much of differences in competitiveness, as measured by changes in market share, at the firm level, in the Indian automobile industry. Based on an econometric analysis, which considers technology acquisition, skill intensity, component imports, firm size, product differentiation, age and vertical integration as the determinants of competitiveness, Narayanan finds that competitiveness has depended on the ability to build technological advantages, even in an era of capacity licensing. This is facilitated by complementing imported technology with in-house R&D efforts.

Narayanan (2004) uses two-way fixed effects estimation of the firm growth as a function of variables capturing technology, such as R&D expenditure as a proportion of sales, foreign equity participation and import of capital goods. Role of technology depends on the technological regime in which the firm operates. In a licensed regime, firms with foreign equity grow faster because of better access to resources and technology. In a deregulated regime, import of capital goods has been the technology-related variable that triggered growth. In a liberal regime, growth is positively influenced by the intra-firm technology transfer.

Narayanan (2006) analyses the determinants of export intensity of Indian automobile firms using a Tobit model, taking the variables discussed in Narayanan (1998) and Narayanan (2004) as the determinants. This study is based on the premises that there is a systematic difference in the characteristics and performance between the firms that export and those which sell in the domestic market, mainly in terms of technology acquisition, which in turn depends on the policy regime. Technology acquisition, firm size, vertical integration, capital intensity, imports of components and policy regime are found to be the main determinants of export competitiveness, by this analysis.

SUMMARY OF LITERATURE REVIEW

The studies reviewed so far were of a wide range in terms of objectives,


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