Buyers of mini trucks used for last mile connectivity are upgrading to more powerful pick-ups and steadily replacing the once popular low-tonnage light cargo vehicles.
Pick-ups with better load carrying capacity (2 tonnes and above) which are popular in Thailand and US are gaining ground in India even as demand for vehicles below this segment continues to witness a decline.
As per data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) the pick-up segment is now bigger than the mini truck segment. With sales of around 140,000 units a year pick-ups outsold 131,000 mini trucks last year.
Shigeru Wakabayashi, executive vice-president and deputy managing director, Isuzu Motors India said, "The pick up market in India right now is nearly 200,000 units a year. It is expected to grow to 800,000 units a year by 2023. Increased urbanisation and improving road conditions are fueling the need to have more powerful vehicles. India is following the pattern of other developed auto markets".
Isuzu Motors is in the process of setting up a 120,000 units a year facility in Andhra Pradesh for which an investment of Rs 3,000 crore is being pumped in. The green field facility which is set to come up in April 2016, will produce the Isuzu pick-up D-Max. Presently four out of every five vehicles sold by Isuzu is the pick-up truck.
Currently the D-Max and a sports utility vehicle MU-7 is assembled by Hindustan Motors at its Thiruvallur plant near Chennai, under a contract manufacturing agreement.
The sub-two tonne cargo segment, where Tata Motors Ace is the market leader, has seen a more severe decline in volumes in recent quarters than any other segment. Last financial year the segment declined by 21 per cent to 131,455 units, as against 166,974 units sold in 2013-14, as per SIAM data.
Despite a challenging market condition, during the first quarter of this financial year, the above 2 tonne segment fell by 1.7 per cent with sales of nearly 39,000 units as against 23 per cent fall in sub-2 tonne segment with sales of almost 24,000 units.
Mahindra & Mahindra is the market leader in the pick-up segment with the Genio and Bolero Maxi Truck followed by the Tata Motors Xenon and 207. Higher power, more cargo carrying capacity and versatility factor is driving demand for pick ups despite the comparatively expensive price tag.
For instance the Mahindra Genio generates peak power of 75 bhp and priced at Rs 5.7 lakh. Its 1.8 tonne mini truck Maxximo generates peak power of 26 bhp and is priced at Rs 3.8 lakh. The Isuzu D-Max (Single Cab) is priced at Rs 6.54 lakh and generates more power at 100 bhp.
"We will take localisation content to 80 per cent to begin with and scale it up to 100 per cent gradually. For now engines will continue to be imported. We are 25 dealers presently and we are confident to take it up to 60 by the time our plant comes up in April", added Wakabayashi.