Dr V Sumantran (VS) from Hinduja Automotive/ Ashok Leyland brings with him rich expertise working on research and development in the automotive sector. He had long years of service with GM- R&D in the US and Europe before joining Tata Motors. He joined Tata Motors at a crucial time of development of the LCV, Ace and subsequently the Nano. The LCV proved to be a run away success. When he was denied the top job, he opted to quit. The Hindujas picked him. Along with R Seshasayee he embarked on a spectacular expansion of Hinduja’s automotive activities. In quick succession he launched Dost, Partner and Mitr from Ashok Leyland-Nissan joint venture that proved to be quick successes. VS ensured the benefits of state-of-the-art technology transferred to the Indian plants in quick time. More importantly, his extensive knowledge of global practices led to increase in convergence of policy makers, technologists and consumers in automotive R&D. He has been stressing real-time changes in transportation and in sustainable mobility.
In his address at a recent CII conference on automotive R&D trends, VS pointed to the remarkable progress made in the reduction of carbon emissions and fuel efficiency: “when I was working at GM-Europe a carbon emission level of 90 gm/km was considered great. Today a good BMW emits only 60 gm/km and VW 30 gm/km. This is what two cyclists exhale riding one km!” VS pointed to the BMW hybrid electric car made of composite carbon fibre, developed in the state of Washington in the US. Such developments hold great promise in not just reducing emissions but also in improving fuel efficiency, he said.
I am happy to notice VS expressing a holistic view of transport development. For decades the powerful automotive lobby has been zealous to advocate solely its interests. VS expressed concern over rapid urbanisation, the massive increase in the number of vehicles and the consequent traffic jams: “we simply cannot just churn out more and more cars without addressing congestion. Singapore levies heavy usage fees to tackle this. Cost for use of urban space is mooted. Japan offers a good example for tackling this. We should work on linking the automobile with other modes of transport,” said VS.
VS explained the reason for quitting AL to pursue his interests in academia, research and consulting. He would continue as advisor to the Hinduja Group.
His considerable expertise should be utilised at the national level for evolving an integrated transport policy. The focus should be on leveraging the best out of mass transportation as also to look at the prospects of inland water transportation. Both are less polluting and cost efficient.