John Reed in Geneva, Financial Times, 4th March, 2009
India’s Tata Motors plans to sell its much hyped low-cost model, the Nano, in Europe from 2011, and an electric car from next year.
In a sign of its ambitions to break into the high end of the European market, Tata also plans to sell the Prima, a new luxury saloon designed by the Italian design house Pininfarina, on the continent by 2012.
The Nano, or Tata’s ‘people’s car’, became one of the world’s most talked-about vehicle since it was introduced in Delhi last year, because of the carmaker’s promise to break new records on pricing in an intensely competitive and cost-conscious industry.
Ratan Tata, the family-controlled group’s Chairman, introduced the cars at the Geneva auto show this week. He said the three vehicles represented “the ongoing evolution in our cars.”
The Indian conglomerate’s carmaking arm owns the UK premium brands Jaguar/ Land Rover, which are suffering sharply lower sales in the current global industry downturn.
Last week, Tata announced a March 23 date for the Indian launch of the Nano, which will reach dealerships in early April and sell for about $2,000. Demonstration models were driven to temples across the country to receive blessings as part of the marketing campaign.
The Indian launch, originally planned for last year, was delayed amid demonstrations that forced it to move production of the car from West Bengal province to a site in Gujarat.
The car’s debut will be closely watched in the country, where it is a source of pride, but could prove an Achilles heel for the group if it goes wrong.
Tata did not announce European prices for the Nano. The Nano Europa, as the car is called, will meet the continent’s safety and emissions regulations, which are stricter than India’s, and therefore will likely be significantly more expensive. Tata already sells some of its other models in Italy, Spain and Poland.
In Europe, the Nano will face stiff competition in the fast-growing city car segment, where manufacturers from Toyota and General Motors to Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroen are launching well-reviewed new models, many of which were on display in Geneva this week.
Tata’s electric car will also compete alongside a growing number of entrants into the niche, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault, GM, and Daimler’s Smart minicar brand. Heuliez, a French contract car manufacturer 60-per-cent-owned by Indian entrepreneur Ajay Singh, plans to begin selling electric cars in Europe next year.
Christophe Cairoli, the company’s sales and marketing director, told the Financial Times that it planned to sell its electric model, the Friendly, from February 2010 in western Europe, where it would sell for less than €15,000, including tax. “We think we can sell 20,000 of these cars per year,” Mr Cairoli said.
Tata will produce its electric Indica Vista in conjunction with Miljo Grenland/ Innovasjon, a Norwegian company in which Tata’s UK technical subsidiary bought a 70 per cent stake last year.
The Indian company said it was currently performing “extensive tests” in Europe on the car, which will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and have a predicted driving range of up to 200 km.
[Source: Financial Times/FT.com]
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