The Hosur LCV plant of Ashok Leyland is expected to attain the capacity of 55,000 this year

Ashok Leyland is progressively ramping up production of Dost, the light commercial vehicle it launched a year ago in association with Nissan, as the customer response has been very encouraging, and there is a need to take the LCV to more States across the country.

From September 2011 to last month, 20,479 units of Dost were sold, and in the eight States where it is available, the LCV is the market leader reinforcing the decision of the manufacturer to become a segment-splitter. “We have been fortunate that we have hit the bull’s eye,” Ashok Leyland Vice-Chairman V. Sumantran said about the decision of the company to be in the 2-3.5 tonne segment.

The rate of growth in the sub-1 tonne LCV market, which was impressive when the decision on foray into LCV was being taken, has flattened, and the class above that is taking over. “We wanted to set standards… power steering and air-conditioning provided a new experience in LCVs,” explained Dr. Sumantran, who is also Chairman of Nissan Ashok Leyland Powertrain Ltd.

Ashok Leyland’s Executive Director-LCV Nitin Seth said from 200 vehicles a month at the time of launch, the production of Dost had increased to 2,800. The ramp-up, at the Ashok Leyland plant in Hosur, is expected to attain the capacity of 55,000 in the second year. As Dost drives into new markets – Madhya Pradesh, National Capital Region and Uttar Pradesh in the next stage, the number of customer touch-points would nearly double from the present 45.

The senior executives were addressing a press meet here on Tuesday to announce the launch of a limited 1 anniversary edition of Dost. The special edition, with some specially-designed accessories such as bull bars, fuel tank guards, LED lights and arm rests, according to Mr. Seth, would be available for two months in the eight States. It has been priced at Rs.4.78 lakh (ex-showroom, Chennai), about Rs.57, 000 more than the price of the existing model.

Dr. Sumantran said though the deceleration of the economy and declining freight rates were a cause of concern, the LCV segment was better insulated against such downtrend as the rural economy remained strong. The joint venture, he added, was setting up a plant at Pillaipakkam, near Sriperumbudur, and it would be ready in two and a half years.