Europe’s Gifa to make ambulances in India

Europe’s Gifa to make ambulances in India

Pune: One of Europe’s largest manufacturers of ambulances and emergency vehicles, Groupe Gifa SA, has entered into a joint venture with component manufacturer Castmaster India Pvt. Ltd to make ambulances in India.

The joint venture, Castmaster Gifa India Pvt. Ltd, will build a new plant near Manesar in north India that will cater to the increasing demand for ambulances in the country, a person close to the development said. Gifa specializes in customized ambulance bodies and interiors, and its range of ambulances have been built on a variety of car models from Renault SA and Volkswagen AG, among others, since its inception in 1992.

In India, the joint venture’s ambulances will be built around the Winger model produced by Tata Motors Ltd, the person said. The Winger is a maxi-van built by the company around Renault’s Trafic model, which it acquired a couple of years ago and is available here as an intra-city bus at about Rs4.70 lakh.

According to Tata Motors spokesperson Debasis Ray, the Winger is a versatile platform, offering opportunities for people movement, goods transportation and special applications like ambulances. Tata Motors is working with some suppliers, including Gifa, for developing suitable ambulances for Indian requirements.

Gifa president and chairman Jean Caghassi was in India recently visiting the manufacturing facilities at Tata Motors, that person said.

The joint venture’s manufacturing plant will come up at Binola near Manesar, an automobile manufacturing hub, and will manufacture 1,000 units every year. Castmaster will hold a majority stake and initially invest Rs10 crore on the plant, which is expected to go commercial in April.

While plans are initially to sell in the domestic market, the company eventually plans to export to neighbouring countries such as Thailand. The ambulances will sport price tags of Rs18-20 lakh. Company officials declined to comment.

Meanwhile, according to the same person who did not wish to be identified, the joint venture will pitch for a slice of the 20,000 annual market for ambulances, that is tipped to rise sharply over the next year with the government planning to position ambulances, manned by critical-care personnel, at 50km intervals along the 65,590km national highway.

With fatalities in road accidents going up sharply over the last few years, a governmental body, Centralized Accidents and Trauma Service, is also close to finalizing a project that will see hundreds of ambulances being made available initially across the National Capital Region, and eventually across key metros and urban centres.

The country’s large commercial vehicle manufacturers, including Tata Motors, Eicher Motors Ltd, Hindustan Motors Ltd and Force Motors Ltd, have now developed an interest in this segment.

It is not clear if Tata Motors will pursue plans to independently launch an ambulance variant of its Winger model.