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Autonomous Vehicles: Moving Closer to the Driverless Future

An Uber self-driving car was reported getting into an accident in Arizona last month. But as the saying goes “any publicity is good publicity”, this also holds true for autonomous vehicles. The news sparked a discussion and shed some light on potential challenges the technology may face before it becomes available for commercial use. At the same time, it spread awareness about the level of safety testing being done to improve the technology before it is rolled out to the public. We are taking a look at what’s potentially in store for users waiting to see streets flooded with driverless vehicles.

Autonomous self-driving vehicles have been the talk of the industry for some time now, with some of the initial attempts to create a modern autonomous car dating back to 1980s. However, major advancements have only been made during the last decade, coinciding with advancements in the supporting technologies, such as advanced sensors, real-time mapping, and cognitive intelligence, which are perhaps the most crucial to the success of any autonomous vehicle.

Early advancements in the segment were led by technology companies which focused on developing software to automate/assist driving of cars. Some prime examples include nuTonomy, which has recently partnered with Grab (a ride-hailing startup rival to Uber) to test its self-driving cars in Singapore, Cruise Automation (acquired by GM in 2016), and Argo AI, which has recently received a US$1 billion investment from Ford. These companies use primarily regular cars/vans that are retrofitted with sensors, as well as high-definition mapping and software systems.

However, software alone is not capable enough to offer self-driving driving functionalities, therefore, automotive OEMs are taking the front seat when it comes to driving advancements in autonomous vehicles segment. New cars/vans, which are tuned to work seamlessly with this software, are likely to adapt better with the algorithms and meet stringent performance and safety standards required before they can be rolled out commercially. California-based Navigant Research believes that with its investment in Argo AI, Ford has taken a lead among such automotive OEMs in the race to produce an autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

Advanced levels of autonomy still to be achieved

In a nutshell, there are five levels of autonomous cars. Levels 1 through to 3 require human intervention in some form or other. The most basic level comprises only driver assistance systems, such as steering or acceleration control. Most common form of currently prevalent autonomy is Level 2, which involves the driver being disengaged from physically operating the vehicle for some time, using automation such as cruise control and lane-centering. Tesla’s current Autopilot system can be categorized as Level 2.

Level 3 involves the car completely undertaking the safety-critical functions, under certain traffic or environmental conditions, while requiring a driver to intervene if necessary.

Most OEMs developing autonomous cars target launching their vehicles in the next three to five years. Tesla is probably the closest, with its Model 3 car with Autopilot 3 system expected to be unveiled in 2018 (however, this depends on whether the regulations are in place by then). Nissan, Toyota, Google, and Volvo plan to achieve this by 2020, while BMW and Ford have set a deadline for 2021. Most of these companies are working on achieving cars with Level 3 autonomy, with a driver sitting behind the steering wheel to take over from the car’s programming as and when required.

Level 4 and Level 5 vehicles are deemed as fully autonomous which means they do not require a driver and all driving functions are undertaken by the car. The only difference is that while Level 4 vehicles are limited to most common roads and general traffic conditions, Level 5 vehicles are able to offer performance equivalent to a human driving in every scenario – including extreme environments such as off-roads.

Some OEMs, Ford in particular, are against the practice of using a human as a back-up, based on the understanding that a person sitting idle behind the wheel often loses the situational awareness which is required when he needs to take over from the car’s programming. Ford is planning to skip achieving Level 3 autonomy and target development of Level 4 autonomous vehicles instead.

Google is currently the only company focusing on developing a Level 5 autonomous car (or a robot car). The company already showcased a prototype that has no steering wheel or manual controls – a prototype that in true sense can be the first autonomous car. Tesla also plans to work on achieving the highest level of autonomy and plans to fit its cars with all hardware necessary for a fully-autonomous vehicle.

High costs continue to be challenging

While the plans are in place, one massive roadblock that persists in the development of these cars of future are costs. There are multiple sensors used in these cars, including SONAR and LIDAR. The ongoing research has helped to reduce the costs of sensors – Google’s Waymo has managed to reduce the costs of LIDAR sensors by 90%, from about $75,000 (in 2009) to about $7,000 (in 2016) – but they are still very expensive. The fact that a driverless car requires about four of these sensors, makes the cars largely unaffordable for consumers, and that puts off any discussion of feasibility of commercial production at this stage.

EOS Perspective

The first three months of 2017 have been particularly eventful, with several prototypes launched or tested. This activity is expected to increase further as companies try to meet their ambitious plans to roll out self-driving cars by 2020.

Initial adoption is likely to come from companies investing in commercial fleet, particularly those focusing on on-demand taxi or fleet, similar to what Uber or Lyft offer. Series of investments by large bus manufacturing companies, such as Scania, Iveco, and Yutong, also indicate how this technology will be the flavor of the future in public transport.

It is too soon to comment how and when exactly these autonomous vehicles can be expected to impact the way people choose to travel and how they may redefine the societies’ mobility. It is likely to depend on how the regulatory environment evolves to allow driverless cars in active traffic. Current regulatory environment for driverless cars is still at a nascent stage and allows only for testing of these cars in an isolated environment. Some states in the USA, particularly California, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, have opened up to testing of these cars in general public. However, recent accidents and cases of autonomous cars breaking traffic rules have put pressure on authorities to reconsider their stance until the cars become more advanced and tested to handle the nuances of public traffic. We might need to wait another decade or two before driverless cars are a reality in many markets. As things stand, endless efforts continue to go behind the curtain, as companies strive to win the race to develop highly autonomous and safe vehicles.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Tata’s Tamo Breaks with Convention, but the Fight Lies Elsewhere

Will the new Tamo sub-brand be able to change Indian consumers’ perception of Tata Motors?

Tata Motors is out to regain its place in the Indian automotive market, where it continues to suffer from a lack of trust among consumers.

Launched in February, Tata Motors’ future mobility sub-brand, Tamo, is intended to act as an incubation center of innovation’ to push new technologies for developing future mobility solutions…

Read our article published on Automotive World.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

The Return of Consumer Credit – What Does It Mean for Algerian Passenger Vehicles Industry?

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(This post, along with recently published article on auto financing in Nigeria, formed a mainstay of a broader coverage article titled ‘Affordable auto financing essential for OEM success in Africa’, contributed by EOS Intelligence to ‘Guide to the automotive world in 2017’, Automotive World’s annual publication covering a gamut of articles by leading global automotive industry analysts and consultants. The report was published in January 2017)

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Banned in 2009 in order to curb the national import bill as well as the level of household debt, consumer credit was reinstated in Algeria in early 2016 to encourage the consumption of national products. In the local automotive industry, Renault Symbol is the only passenger vehicle currently available on auto financing, since Renault is the only locally assembled vehicle in Algeria. Can the return of consumer credit along with other policies provide the much needed boost to the nation’s passenger vehicle industry?

With a total population of approximately 40 million, Algeria is the second largest automotive market on the African continent. For the past several years, the country’s automotive industry has relied heavily on imports from Europe and Asia, importing nearly two million cars between 2012 and 2015. Today, the industry continues to be heavily dominated by imported vehicles, which account for approximately 85-90% of the total market. Passenger car manufacturing is limited, with Renault Algerie being the only domestic manufacturer (the Renault Algerie production plant is an assembly unit that builds the Symbol model from completely knocked down production for the Algerian market).

In 2009, all consumer loans were abolished by the government in an effort to reduce import bills as well as the level of household debt. However, in 2016, under the Executive Decree No. 15-114 of May 2015, consumer loans were made available on selected goods manufactured nationally. Under the scheme, car loans are available only on Renault Symbol, since it is the only locally-assembled vehicle.

Unlike in Nigeria and in several other African countries, where accessibility and affordability of car finance remain an immense challenge, in Algeria, a considerable part of the population can qualify for loans based on their monthly income level. As a result, major Algerian banks have seen a rapid surge of car loan applications. Although access to consumer finance has boosted car loan applications over the second half of 2016, this is not likely to significantly impact the industry growth, since consumers have no choice in selecting either brand or model. In addition, Renault’s current production volumes are very limited (25,000 vehicles per annum) and cannot meet the total local demand. However, due to the recently introduced reforms, the industry dynamics can be expected to change in the next few years.

EOS Perspective

The current economic environment, along with the implementation of licensing system and import quotas are likely to have a negative impact on the passenger vehicles industry in the short term. New vehicle sales can be expected to witness a decline to some extent in 2017. But the recent developments are also likely to push automakers to invest in setting up local production facilities. The arrival of major OEMs and their production projects is expected to serve as a growth catalyst for the local automotive industry over medium to long term. Once these projects become operational, local production volumes might increase significantly, which will provide consumers with more buying options. In addition, the ease of consumer lending could accelerate household spending, leading to increased bank lending in the automotive industry. As competition between banks intensifies, more innovative and affordable car financing solutions are likely to be available to consumers in Algeria, which can in turn attract many consumers across segments to buy new cars. The rising and young middle-class Algerians are likely to consider shifting from entry-level segment to the luxury segment, as they can spread their payments over a longer period of time (e.g. up to 60 months).

All of these efforts combined together – the recent industry reforms, auto manufacturing projects in the pipeline, and auto lending – can be expected to fuel growth in Algeria’s passenger vehicle industry.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Driving Growth in Kazakh and Uzbek Passenger Vehicles Markets

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The past two years have brought a mixed bag of experience for both Kazakh and Uzbek automotive industries. Passenger vehicles sales volumes witnessed growth, however at a varied rate, affected by internal as well as external macroeconomic disruptions and regional developments. Amid these conditions, 2016 is likely to be an uncertain year for the automotive industries in both countries. Although growth is likely to be challenging, by re-thinking its current focus along with the help of the right government policies, growth prospects over the long term are promising.

While the Kazakh and Uzbek economic and automotive industries scenarios differ to quite an extent, and both countries have witnessed a varied growth in recent years, their macroeconomic and sector dynamics have continued to remain under a strong impact of the global slump in oil prices, volatile economic and political environment in neighboring regions, as well as currency devaluations. While Kazakhstan automotive industry, with sales volume CAGR of 67.8% during 2010-2014, was one of the fastest growing auto markets worldwide, the country’s GDP was witnessing a fluctuating y-o-y growth ranging from 7.5% in 2011 to 4.4% in 2014. At the same time, while Uzbek’s economy posted strong and steady GDP growth at around 8% annually between 2011 and 2014, its car sales volume grew at a mere CAGR of 1.4% during 2010-2014.

1-Fluctuating Economic & Automotive Industry Growth

Uzbekistan’s automotive industry is currently around twice the size of the industry in Kazakhstan, however its sales volume growth has recently stalled putting a question mark on Uzbek industry future growth dynamics. Kazakhstan might soon be seen to be catching up, with more than healthy sales volume growth rate, much of it supported by recent government reforms to boost local production and sales.

2-Automotive Industry Landscape

3-Industry Challenges & Opportunities

4-Industry Challenges & Opportunities


EOS Perspective

With Russia’s economy still struggling to recover amid Western sanctions, banking on vehicle exports is unlikely to take Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan any further. Passenger vehicles sales and production figures in most likelihood will continue to be impacted by internal as well as external macro-economic factors in 2016. In order to grow in the current environment, OEMs will have to look beyond their status-quo. Automakers will have to start focusing on domestic markets, which are still underserved with rapidly increasing demand for new cars.

The governments will have to work together with industry participants to create consistent as well as comprehensive industry policies that can attract more investments and stimulate growth. Measures such as financial incentives, special land allotment, creating SEZs, and various other schemes can significantly boost investor (both local and foreign) confidence. At the same time, reforms such as increasing local content requirement will drive more local producers to enter the industry. This might be a great help to the overall vehicle manufacturing and auto components industry in its development and growth trajectory.

5-What Can Drive Growth

With automakers trying to scale down their operations in Russia and Ukraine, growth opportunities are ripe for region’s manufacturers to capture and fill the market gaps in neighboring regions such as EEU and CIS. By leveraging their strategic location and proximity to European, CIS, and Asian markets, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan could potentially attempt to reinvent themselves as the region’s next automotive export hub.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

North Africa: Is It The Next Frontier Market For Automotive Manufacturing?

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The article was also published in Automotive World’s Q2 2015 Megatrends Magazine

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Rapid urbanization, growing consumer base with rising disposable income, significant infrastructure investments, and proximity to the EU are some of the key reasons why automotive companies are increasingly attracted towards the North African markets. In spite of the impact of political upheavals on the region’s economy in recent times, the value proposition for global auto manufacturers remains strong.

The North African markets of Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia have attracted the eyes of multinational automakers in the last few years, thanks to rapid urbanization, rising disposable incomes, and continuous investments in infrastructure. In recent years, several automotive companies have assessed and entered these markets due to its favorable demographics.

North Africa’s market attractiveness relative to other regions has improved dramatically over the past years. According to E&Y’s Africa Attractiveness Survey of 2014, nearly three out of four respondents believed that Africa’s attractiveness will improve further over the next three years. Morocco and Egypt were seen as the two most attractive countries in North Africa by 55% of the respondents.

Despite several political and economic challenges, there is growing consensus that the region’s growth curve is on an upward trajectory, aptly supported by improvements in the EU economies, steadier inflation rates, and policy reforms undertaken by individual governments to harness growth.

Real GDP North Africa

While the FDI inflow statistics shows a different picture, the trend is expected to change as investors have been encouraged by the gradually restored political stability in these countries, as well as recent government initiatives to create business friendly regulatory frameworks.

FDI

What’s attracting automakers to North Africa?

In the North African region, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia together accounted for a giant share of over 90% of the total new passenger car sales in 2014, as per statistics from International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.

These four countries represent approximately 42% of the total African passenger cars market. After witnessing a steep decline in 2013 due to the weak external demand as well as the region’s volatile political environment, new car sales figures picked up in 2014. With the region’s growth back on track, rising investors’ confidence, and uptick in tourism, these sales figures are projected to increase in the next coming years.

For global OEMs, lower labor costs, proximity to Europe, expanding port facilities, various financial incentives, and increasing network of auto parts suppliers and subcontractors are making the region’s value proposition stronger.

North Africa’s strategic geographic location and its skilled labor force at competitive wages, has provided a perfect solution for vehicle manufacturers, allowing easy exports in order to cater to the needs of the European automotive industry. Besides, the region also serves as a gateway to the rapidly growing African and Middle-eastern automotive markets.

The region’s favorable demographics – a young and rapidly growing population, increased urbanization, and rising income levels are attracting many global automotive players. Consumers today in North Africa are more brand-conscious and technologically savvy. Forecasts from the OPEC suggest that car ownership in the Middle-East and Africa will nearly triple to 66 million by 2035, compared to 23 million in 2010, making it among the fastest growing markets in the world over the next few decades.

Individual governments have also played a vital role in the industry’s growth story by creating a favorable investment regulatory framework. Despite economic pressures and tight budgets, governments in these countries have continued to make significant investments towards infrastructure across ports, roads and railway networks. In addition, a range of financial incentives are offered to foreign investors in the auto industry. This includes free trade zones, multiple tax incentives, special land allotment, and partial contribution towards infrastructure expenses for auto industry projects. Further, the government has also invested towards training programs to build a skilled labor force that can fulfill the demands of the growing auto industry.

North Africa’s Big 4 Markets – Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia

North Africa


Morocco has aggressively marketed itself as the new regional automotive hub for global automotive players. According to a 2013 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Kingdom will be the 19th-largest vehicle producer in the world by 2017. Renault, Delphi, Lear, Leoni, Yazaki, Faurecia, Sumitomo, and Hirschmann Automotive are some examples of key investment projects in recent years. These companies are not just providing employment, but, are also supporting a thriving automotive SME sector.

Renault’s operations in Morocco have provided a major boost to its automotive industry, as more than 40% of the parts are sourced locally. Renault aims to further expand its production capacity in Morocco and is also considering setting up an engine production plant to serve the two production plants. This represents large scale potential opportunities for auto parts manufacturers and suppliers. In October 2014, the Moroccan government announced the signing of five MoU deals with leading manufacturers of automotive wiring, vehicles interior & seats, metal stamping, and batteries.

As demand from both local as well as export markets grows, the industry is going to witness higher investment growth in the near future. Further, car makers that enter the Moroccan markets are also able to leverage on the pool of skilled labor and network of more than 40 Tier-1 suppliers.

Algeria’s automotive industry relies heavily on imports from Europe and China, importing approximately 75,000 cars annually. The age of current passenger vehicles plying on Algerian roads and low ownership rates present a significant potential for passenger car manufacturers. The Algerian government has played its part by promoting investments, and creating a business-friendly environment for the auto sector.

Mercedes Benz recently announced that it aims to transfer its investments from Egypt to Algeria in 2015 in order to take the advantage of benefits and facilities provided by Algerian government to foreign automakers. Renault’s production unit that became operational in 2014 has facilitated the development of local subcontracting and network of suppliers to create a local automotive industry. In order to meet the growing demand, Renault plans to triple its production output to 75,000 units by 2019, and has also committed to increase the level of local content.

With an increased interest of OEMs in the Algeria story, several opportunities will arise for suppliers of auto spare parts, plastic injection, paint as well as bodywork facilities.

In spite of being one of the smaller countries in the region, the automotive industry in Tunisia boasts of more than 80 companies, employing over 60,000 people, with a turnover of TND 2 billion (US$ 1.02bn) in 2013. The recent MoU signed with Iran for co-operation in car manufacturing will also help the Tunisian automotive industry grow further in the next few years.

Tunisia has a robust network of suppliers in the automobile wiring sector, and an abundant pool of skilled engineers and technicians at its disposal. The bigger benefit is the fact that the cost of hiring such talent is not only one-third the cost of that in the EU, but is also lower than its North African peers. Investment in manufacturing automotive components for exports is a priority sector for the government and in order to attract more investments, the government offers fully integrated sites with industrial, logistics, and infrastructure support to companies seeking to establish their manufacturing operations in Tunisia. There are plenty of opportunities for companies that manufacture automotive electronic, mechanical, and plastic components dedicated for exports to European and African markets.

New passenger cars sales in Egypt posted a solid growth of nearly 25% in 2014. With ongoing government plans to develop and encourage investment in the sector, and the improving tourism industry, new car sales are expected to grow further beyond 2015.

Nissan motors in October 2014 announced that it will invest an additional US$60 million towards expanding its assembly operations in Egypt. The government is also encouraging a vehicle production joint venture between domestic firm Nasr Automotive Manufacturing and Russia’s AvtoVAZ. The deal will not only give automotive production industry a major boost, but, it will also create opportunities for auto parts manufacturers and suppliers. For example, tire market Pirelli signed a MoU to invest US$107 million over a three year period to increase the production capacity in order to meet the growing demand.

Egypt is well poised to see a stronger automotive growth, driven also by very favorable demographics and proximity to the Middle-east.


A Final Word – Immense Scope, Manageable Challenges

OEMs must accept that North Africa will be unable to match the potential of the BRICS, MIST or ASEAN countries; however, given the region’s positive economic growth trend and rising investor confidence, the outlook for automotive industry is upbeat.

Various initiatives taken by individual governments have provided a boost to the automotive industry, and continue to attract global OEMs to establish local presence for both regional and export markets. Region’s favorable demographics, strategic location and competitive wages not only make it an attractive hub for auto exports, but, also a lucrative market for auto manufacturers which seek to tap the potential of African passenger cars markets.

There are a few challenges, political and economic, that need to be managed, in order to encourage OEMs to set up shop in North Africa. On the economic front, it would be imperative to demonstrate an investor-friendly regulatory environment, as well as the willingness to provide tax breaks and similar financial incentives to OEMs to establish production base and export hubs. While on the political front, ensuring stability and managing issues surrounding external factors such as ISIS will be critical to convince automotive companies to invest both monetary and technological resources in the region.

At this point in time, given the political, economic and social dynamics of the North African region, the scope for growth of the automotive sector is immense.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

India – Reducing Reliance on Diesel

  • India’s subsidy on diesel currently stands at about INR 950 billion (~ USD 19 billion).
  • Total diesel consumption was 64.74 million tons in 2011.
  • Diesel accounts for about 38% of India’s total fuel consumption.
  • 3 million ton of diesel is consumed in private power generation.

On 17th January 2013, the Indian government took a major step towards the deregulation of diesel prices. A monthly (duration, undecided) hike of INR 0.50 (USD 0.01) for retail customers and INR 11.00 (USD 0.20) increase in diesel price for bulk customers has been proposed. This move is expected to reduce India’s fuel subsidy burden by about INR 150 billion (~ USD 3 billion) annually.

Why such high dependence on diesel?

Agriculture and power generation account for 20% of India’s diesel demand.

The agriculture sector, the mainstay of India’s economy, accounts for about 12% of India’s total diesel demand. For a typical Indian farmer engaged in semi-mechanized farming operations, diesel can account for up to 20% of the input cost. This primarily consists of expenses towards fuel used to plough field and a substantial amount used to operate water pumps for irrigation purpose.

The power sector demand for diesel is largely driven by inadequate and inefficient power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. As per available statistics, there is about 10% supply-demand gap in India’s power sector, which results in regular outages. Though India added about 20GW of generation capacity in 2011, more would be required if the country aims to match global per capita electricity consumption standards of 2,700Kwh. At present, India’s per capita consumption is about 900Kwh.

This mismatch in supply-demand of power is met by private power generation, accounting for 8% of India’s diesel demand. Shopping malls, housing societies, large hospitals and telecom towers are among the major consumers of diesel-generated power.

  • Across the country, diesel generators operate for 8-10 hours every day, to supplement government-supplied electricity, thus leading to excess demand for diesel.

  • According to government statistics available for 2011, private power generators and mobile phone towers consumed 4.6% and 1.93% of diesel, respectively.

Power is also lost in the form of aggregate technical and commercial losses, which amount to about 30% of the total power produced in the country. With a generation capacity of 205GW, approximately 60,000MW is lost while transmitting and distributing power to end-users.

  • As an indicator, reduction of these losses by even 50% can ensure power to about 8 million diesel pumps of 5 HP rating thereby saving of about 4-8 million litres of diesel per hour.

  • If the government took necessary steps to improve power availability by 50% of the current outage time (assumed to be eight hours daily as an average) then it is estimated that it would lead to the reduction of diesel usage in private power generation by about 4.5 million litres annually.

So, how can the heavy reliance on diesel be reduced?

  • Reduce price differential – Minimizing the price differential between petrol (gasoline) and diesel, which can be up to 30%, could go a long way in helping reduce the burden on diesel. Artificially-kept low diesel prices (coupled with better efficiency of diesel engines vis-à-vis petrol engine) have led to increased demand for diesel vehicles in India, thus resulting in greater diesel consumption. In 2012, diesel cars accounted for more than 50% of all passenger vehicles sold in India. In 2011, approximately 16% of diesel sold in India was consumed by passenger vehicles. Economists have often questioned the rationale behind selling subsidized diesel to passenger vehicle owners who can afford it at the market price. Policymakers have also mulled options to discourage the sale of diesel cars, which include higher taxes on diesel cars. However, such moves have been opposed by the Indian automobile industry. Industry experts admit that parity in diesel and petrol prices can shift balance in favour of petrol vehicles with a sales ratio of 55:45. For instance, if achieved in 2013, this could reduce the consumption of diesel by 200 million litres (based on a conservative estimate).

  • Alternate sources of power – Adoption of renewable sources of energy for power generation could also help in reducing the current diesel burden of India. Renewable power currently accounts for only about 12% of total installed capacity. For instance, an Indian telecom service provider Airtel has installed a 100 KW solar power plant in one of its major routing centres in Northern India. This is expected to save 26,000 litres of diesel annually. The company is planning to install similar system in six other locations as well.

  • Other measuresBetter roads and highways would result in improved fuel efficiency of vehicles leading to lesser use of vehicles. Efficient intermodal logistics infrastructure, with a larger share of railways would reduce dependence on road transport.


Diesel demand in India would remain high due to its close linkage with day-to-day economic activity. However, it is apparent that current diesel usages are more than the actual requirement due to infrastructural shortcomings in the power sector. Therefore, addressing these issues would directly help in reducing diesel demand in India.

In the near term, it would be interesting to see how the gradual hike in diesel prices impact the economy at large, and more so, the budgets of the common man. As with several such measures in the past, the step towards change has to be politically driven and with general elections in sight in 2014, only time will tell how effective this much awaited reform is for India.

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