In­dian up­ris­ing

Sub­con­ti­nent’s tough, cheap utes re­turn to Aus­tralia

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - JOSHUA DOWLING NATIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowling@cars­ Twit­ter: @JoshuaDowling

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

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