Gujarat emerging as export hub for auto majors

By P.S. Anantharaman, IANS,

Ahmedabad : Gujarat is poised to become a major auto export hub in the country with several vehicle manufacturers coming to the state to invest in its ports to set up automobile-handling terminals.

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The Mundra port, developed by the Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone (MPSEZ), will have a car export terminal operational by the first quarter of 2009, a top official of the company, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told IANS.

The terminal, exclusively for Maruti Suzuki India cars, is being built at an investment of Rs.1 billion ($25 million), said Sandeep Mehta, chief executive of the port.

This will be India’s first dedicated car export terminal, he added. The terminal will be able to handle 250,000 units of Maruti cars a year. The capacity would be raised by an additional 400,000 units by 2010, Mehta said.

According to officials, Maruti Suzuki currently exports close to 40,000 cars from India and is keen on increasing exports five-fold to 200,000 in two years. A bulk of it will be handled through Mundra.

Currently, Mumbai and Chennai are the major ports that handle auto exports. Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Ashok Leyland and Eicher Motors depend on the Mumbai facilities, owing to the proximity to their production centres.

Hyundai and Ford, thanks to their south Indian manufacturing facilities, export cars through Chennai Port.

Mitsubishi Motors is another global major which is looking for port facilities on the west coast. The company is considering locations like Vansi Borsi Port and Maroli Port in Gujarat to set up a car-handling terminal, sources said.

The sources added that Mitsubishi was also exploring options for setting up exclusive terminals at existing ports like Mundra, Pipavav, Okha or Kandla.

The company is hoping that its proposed terminal could be linked to the north-south dedicated rail freight corridor, to facilitate movement of cars by rail.

With automotive exports from the country rapidly growing, India’s ports are naturally looking to build dedicated terminals for ships that ferry cars and roll-on roll-off vessels.