Can companies shift from designing electric scooters to small urban cars?
In 2011, senior personnel from Hero Honda visited drive and during our presentation they referred to the mystery of the ‘black box’. They told us they were separating from Honda and although Hero had all the engineering and manufacturing expertise, Honda had been their design department. The ‘black box’ was the design process, from interpreting the market, sketching and producing design concepts. We presented our thoughts on future avenues and we touched on Hero producing electric / hybrid scooters and motorbikes. They explained that although they produced an early example in 2001. But like many at the time, they didn’t foresee an immediate market for electric scooters. Since the split Hero MotoCorp continues to go from strength to strength.
Now electric scooters are clearly big business and last April I wrote an article about China’s largest Electric Scooter company Niu Technologies. (link here) I suggested that they were perhaps in a stronger position to succeed than many EV car manufacturers if they entered that sector. With their global dealer network, growing brand awareness and customer insights, they could produce a suitable and successful electric car.
The article insights revealed 60 of the 3000 readers were from one Indian company, Ola. But why?
A month later the reason became clear. Ola Electric Mobility, an off shoot from Ola (aka ANI Technologies), appointed ex-JLR designer Wayne Burgess as Vice President, Design. Not an obvious choice for designing electric scooters, but leading a vehicle design studio, definitely. Ola EM, who have just delivered the first of their electric scooters (Dec 2021), clearly had ambitions to enter the 4 wheel arena. This was confirmed recently when the CEO revealed an image of a small car concept. Then the promise of a centre for advanced engineering and automotive design in Coventry. Ola EM is a company in it’s infancy, yet with vast business knowledge and large investment from it’s backers, it is clearly on a mission.
Some way to go to even catch India’s highest-selling EV scooter brand, with 36% market share – Hero Electric, (Confusingly this is not part of Hero MotoCorp, they had released their rights to the name to a sort of sibling rival) but that is clearly the aim.
What about Hero MotoCorp? Recently they sold over 7.8 million units, the highest by any two-wheeler company in the world, and added their 1st electric scooter. They have the reputation and manufacturing capabilities to become the leading EV brand.
So will these companies enter the small car market or should they remain concentrating on their core business? If they do, can they be successful? We believe that designing from their unique perspective, producing a differentiating product, they certainly can.