The Hinduja brothers - Srichand, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok - want to get on the electric vehicles bandwagon. They sure have the scale and resources. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: India’s commercial vehicles (CV) maker Ashok Leyland and its owners, UK-based billionaires Hindujas, have electric ambitions – and they are making it happen. The plan, details of which were unveiled on Wednesday, is aimed at making Ashok Leyland one of the world’s Top 10 CV brands.

Much of this will come from the company’s push into electric vehicles, which will be done through the launch of UK-based Switch Mobility. The new venture will have Ashok Leyland and its subsidiary Switch, a designer of single- and double-decker buses, to roll out a range of electrically-powered commercial vehicles. (Ashok Leyland operates an assembling plant in Ras Al Khaimah for its trucks and buses.)

While much of the world’s automotive industry has been fixated with making cars and SUVs electric, Elon Musk and Tesla had announced a semi-electric truck concept, Cybertruck, which was announced in late 2019. (The project is now officially delayed.)

This would allow the Hindujas – one of the world’s richest families with combined wealth estimated at $11 billion plus – to catch up with Switch Mobility. Ashok Leyland already makes electric vehicles, but in limited numbers. This is what the group wants to change as well.

“We have a very aggressive plan to be at the forefront of the electric vehicle transition in buses and light vehicles,” said Dheeraj Hinduja, Chairman, Ashok Leyland and Switch Mobility. “We already have over 280 electric buses on the road in India and UK. “Many new products are under development and we will be in an unique position of offering both value and premium products for global markets.”

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Heavyweight names

The Hindujas has pulled in some heavyweight names to run the show at Switch Mobility, not least Dr. Arnold Palmer, who was formerly at the helm of the British supercar marque Aston Martin. Also on-board for the electric drive is the former Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan banker and lawyer, Dr. Miranda Brawn, and an automotive industry veteran, J.M. Alapont, to the Board of Directors.

Much of the sourcing and production for the new electric vehicles will be done in the UK and India. “We need to create sustainable solutions that are simple, practical and make good business sense to our customers,” said Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director and CEO, Ashok Leyland. “Switch Mobility with its strength in net zero carbon technologies combined with Ashok Leyland’s expertise in the mobility space, will lead this change and enable us to fulfil our aspiration of net zero carbon mobility.”