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A tour around Robert Bosch

By Harichandan A. A

HANOVER, SEPT. 22. Five years ago, Raghu (name changed) earned an engineering degree from one of the better known colleges in Mysore, some 140 kilometres from India's wannabe Silicon Valley, Bangalore.

Soon, on the back of the Y2K bodyshop, he got a job in one of the Indian information technology firms, which sent him to the U.S. Three years later, coinciding with higher-end work being outsourced to Indian firms, he was ready to work for a software development team of Nokia.

Shortly after he joined the firm, his talent earned him a place in the Nokia's California facility. When Raghu first went to the U.S., his driving classes were on a Maruti 800, running on petrol, which an uncle had lent him. California, of course, initiated him into more adrenalin boosting tastes.

German technology

The other day, his brother was all set to work for Texas Instruments, after a stint in one of the Indian Institutes of Technology. When he is ready to buy a car, chances are it will be South Korean with German technology for fuel injection.

The drive from M.G. Road to Electronics City Phase 1 in Bangalore may not exactly be like zipping at 120 kilometres on one of the medium speed lanes in a German `autobahn,' but on the odd weekend, when he decides to just continue to drive in Chennai, diesel powered `dum' may be what he would look for.

A host of multinational firms, from South Korean firm Hyundai, which recently introduced the classy Getz, to the German auto component maker, Robert Bosch (RB), are just waiting to sell him just that. And Tata Indica's V2 petrol ad might be fun, but the firm earned its bucks with its diesel version. Maruti, the largest car maker in India, whose 800 was the `trip' of an entire generation, now plans a diesel car plant.

In Robert Bosch India, what will soon be close to 1800 staff, Raghu's counterparts in the auto industry are making software that will run some of the most sophisticated electronics that modern diesel cars will be equipped with.

Finally, the hardware itself, not the electronic kind but the good old engineered kind has found a foothold in the country, with Bosch, the second largest supplier of common rail, deciding to make that system in India for domestic and export markets.

Common rail is a way to ensure that diesel is delivered at a high pressure to the engine, so it burns well. A common tube (rail) delivers the diesel to 'injectors,' as many as there are cylinders in the engine. The technology is all about holding pressure on that diesel at high levels, more or less free from what the engine is doing while running.

A top ranking executive of RB, Bernd Bohr, says diesel is no longer a dirty word in the world of passenger cars. Europe has show the way with close to 45 per cent of all new cars running on diesel, and India and South Korea will go the same route, he says.

Diesel car boom

Many business estimates say India and South Korea will lead the diesel car boom in the next five years, not to mention China, where Bosch has an even larger investment making CR for trucks. That the absence of a semiconductor industry in India means many things still cannot be made in India, for instance, a sophisticated electronic device that helps stabilise the car on slippery surfaces, is another matter.

Pumps needed for CR and the injectors, and some 7.50 lakh `CR systems,' their combination, will be made in a year starting early next year at Bosch's plants in Bangalore and Nashik, owned by its 60.5 per cent subsidiary, Motor Industry Company (MICO). Injectors alone, would number some three million, for, a four cylinder diesel engine would take one pump but four injectors. Some two thirds of this production will be geared for exports to South Korea

Meanwhile, an older pump for the diesel engine, the `distributor pump,' being rapidly phased out in Europe, has actually found favour in India: MICO will double its capacity to make the pumps at Jaipur.

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