Interview with LD Mittal, Chairman, Sonalika
You have been one of the pioneers in industrial vehicle segment. Entering in the passenger vehicle segment with the Rhino was an ice-breaker. What are the future plans for the passenger vehicle segment?
LD Mittal: We are already developing a vehicle by the name of ‘world car’. That is being done in co-operation with renowned designer Pininfarina. It is at the advanced stages of development and we hope to introduce it next year.
ZW: After the death of Sergio Pininfarina, has the development of the world car been delayed in any way?
LDM: It is quite unfortunate that Sergio passed away. However his brothers were also involved in the project which has not postponed the development at all. Related: Sergio Pininfarina dies aged 85
ZW: As announced during the Auto Expo, the pricing would be very aggressive. Can you shed some light on a estimated price bracket and who will be the prime target audience?
LDM: The market is now shifting to a more premium bracket. The market acceptance for premium brands is high. We will not price the car below 12 lakh, but at the same time offer the quality that is there in a Rs 35 lakh car because such cars are the most cost effective. We will try to provide similar or better quality in the world car
ZW: In terms of handling aftersales, will the existing commercial dealerships be expanded or would there be a completely new chain of showrooms and workshops for to cater to the world car owners?
LDM: We like to encourage our existing dealers. Train them properly, offer infrastructure to be able to cater the world car owners. We must take care of their bread and butter. They have already invested with us. So, we would like to expand and promote our existing dealers.
ZW: Sonalika dealers have been dealing with commercial vehicles will take sometime to adapt to the new training process in order to deal with a premium buyer. Is there a stipulated timeline for the dealers to be trained in? As for a premium car owner, it is more of building a relationship with the company than just buying a car.
LDM: We have already started training of our dealers about all the knowledge of the new vehicle. We also have a prototype in our factory. All the dealers can have a feel of the vehicle before the car reaches showrooms.
ZW: Since the market, even in the premium segment, is now shifting to diesel, are you planning on entering the premium space with a diesel engine only or a petrol engine option is also on the cards?
LDM: We will debut the world car in diesel only. Now the technology behind building diesel engines is more reliable, refined and offers better driveability.
ZW: Any other vehicles besides the world car that are on the drawing board for the future?
LDM: We are also planning for a pick-up truck that will cater as a small commercial vehicle and connect between rural and urban areas. And the focus for the pick-up will be primarily rural and semi rural areas.
ZW: Competition has matured a lot compared to Sonalika in the passenger vehicle segment. And with the aggressive market and brand dependability, what challenges do you feel are present to change the buyer’s perception?
LDM: Given the passenger vehicle segment, there can be different perceptions to the challenges that we face. In order to drive the buyer towards us, we have to first of all price our product aggressively and as discussed earlier, we have to build a relationship with the buyer.