Subcontinent’s tough, cheap utes return to Australia
THE bargain basement of the ute market is set to have a new cut-price competitor from India as the Tata brand returns to Australia.
Tata is expected to relaunch with its new Xenon ute later this year, adding passenger cars next year.
Its tiny Nano city runabout, at $2800 the cheapest car in the world, will not be among them.
The maker has not revealed model details or prices for the ute but says the range will have
a greater level of value than what is currently available in the market’’. Chinese utes start at $17,990.
Tata vehicles have been sold on and off in Australia since 1996, when a Queensland distributor began importing them mainly for farm use.
There are an estimated 2500 Tata heavy-duty pick-ups on Australian roads and many more Indian-built cars are in circulation. Since 2009, more than 20,000 Hyundai i20 hatchbacks and 14,000-plus Suzuki Alto small cars have been sold here.
Other, Indian-branded vehicles have not been so successful. Australian sales of Mahindra utes and SUVs have been so weak the distributor is yet to report them to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
The original Mahindra ute scored a poor two stars out of five in independent crash tests. After engineering upgrades, it gained three stars. The Mahindra SUV launched with four stars— most vehicles now are awarded five. The Tata utes have no star rating as yet but the newly appointed distributor is emphasising its origins.
There is no tougher place on Earth to test vehicles than on the demanding roads of India,’’ says Darren Bowler of Fusion Automotive.
India’s largest vehicle company, Tata Motors acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from the Ford Motor Company in June 2008 during the global financial crisis. It has yet to release an all-new model with the input of the former British company’s designers and engineers but recent launches by those marques have been hailed for their improved quality.
The Xenon ute, launched in 2009, is also sold in South Africa, Brazil, Thailand, the Middle East, Italy and Turkey.
In good company: Xenon ute is a Tata stablemate of Jaguar and Land Rover