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From Lexus to Nano: Japan’s Koito to design new headlamps

From Lexus to Nano: Japan’s Koito to design new headlamps
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First Published: Thu, May 22 2008. 11 59 PM IST

Updated: Thu, May 22 2008. 11 59 PM IST
Tokyo: The maker of headlamps for the Lexus brand of cars, Koito Manufacturing Co Ltd., will design lights specifically for ultra-low cost cars as it tries to win more business from India’s Tata Motors Ltd and Nissan Motor Co.
Koito, the world’s biggest maker of headlamps, is in the final stages of creating a simpler light that uses half as many parts as its more expensive models, said its president Masahiro Ohtake.
(GLOBAL AUTO MAKERS RACE TO SUPPLY PARTS FOR LOW-COST CARS IN INDIA)Koito and other auto parts makers are re-engineering products to supply cars that will cost almost half as much as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s Maruti 800, the cheapest car currently in the Indian market. Tata will sell its $2,500 (Rs1 lakh) Nano later this year while Nissan plans to produce a car with the same price by 2011 for India and other emerging markets.
“Koito has no choice but to push into this low-cost market as all the car makers get into the business,” said Kunihiro Matsumoto, a senior analyst at UBS Securities Japan Ltd in Tokyo. “Costs won’t bump up with Koito using existing technology and cheaper labour.”
The parts maker opened a second Indian plant in September in Haryana to be closer to factories of auto makers including Maruti Suzuki India, Ohtake said on 19 May. The company now supplies lights for Tata’s trucks.
“A low-cost car requires a headlamp design all its own,” Ohtake said. Cars at about $3,000 are “something that is being talked about on a global level and will become a big business.” Koito is 20% owned by Toyota Motor Corp.
Tata unveiled the Nano in January and will begin selling the model later this year. The company may export the car after three years, Ratan Tata, the auto maker’s chairman, said in January.
Nissan, France’s Renault SA and India’s Bajaj Auto Ltd said on 12 May they will build a $2,500 car in India to go on sale in 2011. Toyota also plans to build a new low-cost small car in India in 2010.
Toyota’s new factory will be near Bangalore. Koito already supplies headlamps to Toyota from its facility in Chennai. Koito’s Indian operations are with joint venture partner Lucas TVS Ltd.
India’s passenger car sales, which doubled in the past five years, are set to triple to three million vehicles annually by 2015, according to the Indian government. Global sales of small cars will rise to 8.5 million vehicles by 2020 from 5.2 million last year, said Michael Wynn-Williams, a London-based analyst at consulting company Global Insight Inc.
Koito faces competition from Stanley Electric Co., which in February raised its stake in Lumax Industries Ltd, India’s largest maker of automotive lighting, and a supplier for Tata’s Nano. Stanley owns 46.3% of Lumax, according to Bloomberg data.
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First Published: Thu, May 22 2008. 11 59 PM IST