Free­wheel­ing

The sec­ond com­ing of Tata Mo­tors

Evo India - - COLUMN - BY SID­DHARTH VI­NAYAK PATANKAR

TTATA MO­TORS IS ON A ROLL. FI­NALLY THE com­pany’s sales chart is look­ing a bit ro­bust again, and its quar­terly num­bers are not sim­ply stay­ing afloat on the back of the suc­cess its group brands Jaguar and Land Rover bring in. Most of this is thanks to the ex­tremely suc­cess­ful and well-made Ti­ago hatch­back. The car right­fully won the en­try hatch­back award at our an­nual NDTV Car and Bike Awards too and has been mak­ing waves, and bring­ing buy­ers back to Tata show­rooms for the bet­ter part of 2016. The num­bers have been strong. In Oc­to­ber 2016, at the height of the fes­tive pe­riod, Tata sold 16, 311 pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles – up a strong 28 per cent over the pre­vi­ous year. Even in De­cem­ber when most of the in­dus­try has taken a hit over de­mon­eti­sa­tion, Tata has man­aged a 35 per cent year-on-year growth. That shows that it is not just the suc­cess of the Zest or the Ti­ago, but over­all faith in the Tata brand that has also been re­vived.

Its re­cently launched Hexa will now usher in a new era for the fairly be­lea­guered com­pany. But that is de­pen­dent on the suc­cess the ve­hi­cle man­ages to achieve. I say this for many rea­sons, but chief amongst them will be the com­plete reac­cep­tance of the Tata brand once again – es­pe­cially by the more de­mand­ing, choosy and well-to-do buyer. The Ti­ago’s ar­rival has pre­cip­i­tated Tata’s come­back story, but the Hexa has to be the one to take it for­ward. And pave the way for the ar­rival of two very sig­nif­i­cant prod­ucts – the Nexon sub-com­pact SUV and the Kite5 sub-com­pact sedan. The Hexa is in many ways the cul­mi­na­tion of the turn­around Tata has so des­per­ately needed. It was a rev­o­lu­tion within the com­pany be­gun by its former MD Karl Slym. Karl had been at­tempt­ing to change the way the com­pany ap­proached its busi­ness – right from pa­per to prod­uct stage. That meant a com­plete over­haul also of the qual­ity of parts pro­cured from ven­dors – which in turn meant a step-up of the sup­pli­ers’ qual­ity too.

The process has since been car­ried on even af­ter Karl’s pass­ing. To be fair the Hexa it­self was con­ceived af­ter Karl, but it is a me­taphor for it too. And all of that has now come to a tip­ping point. The Hexa has taken the fairly strong en­gi­neer­ing roots of a badly ex­e­cuted prod­uct – the Aria, and given us a sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble and adept ve­hi­cle. A car that will not only make the SUV lovers smile over its rough-ter­rain cre­den­tials, but also im­press the naysay­ers with its cabin and crea­ture com­forts. Now with Tata gain­ing ku­dos for be­ing seen as hav­ing got the price right, the Hexa re­ally should very well be the next big thing that will al­low Tata to take the Ti­ago’s suc­cess to new heights. The Hexa matches its num­ber ri­val – the best­selling and pop­u­lar Mahin­dra XUV500 on price – al­most vari­ant for vari­ant! And so it is clear Tata has ag­gres­sive plans with this car – also ev­i­dent by the nu­mer­ous pre and post launch cus­tomer en­gage­ment ex­er­cises its un­der­taken with the Hexa.

So the cross­over needs to lay the ground­work to en­sure a clear path to Tata deal­er­ships, in time for the afore­men­tioned new prod­ucts. The Hexa sim­ply has to play the flag­ship role – some­thing the Sa­fari used to do years ago, the Aria failed to do, and one Tata has not re­ally had for sev­eral years now. So will it be­come that suc­cess­ful flag­ship for the In­dian au­tomaker? Given my pa­tri­otic in­stincts, I cer­tainly hope so! Of course the man­date will not end there, as the Nexon in par­tic­u­lar and the Kite5 too will pos­si­bly turn into hits for the com­pany. I say this not be­cause I have ac­quired crys­tal ball gaz­ing skills, but sim­ply be­cause of the mas­sive in­ter­est both gen­er­ated as con­cepts at the 2016 Auto Expo. That the Kite5 is the sedan avatar of the al­ready suc­cess­ful Ti­ago helps! And the Nexon will en­ter the fastest grow­ing seg­ment in most global mar­kets! The sub­com­pact SUV phe­nom­e­non was cel­e­brated and en­larged by the Ford EcoS­port since its ar­rival in 2013 and the Maruti Suzuki Vi­tara Brezza in 2016 has just taken it to a dif­fer­ent level. The Nexon’s stylish de­sign and ex­pected fea­ture list will per­haps be a com­pelling ad­di­tion to the space too. So it’s nice to be­gin a year where an In­dian com­pany is hog­ging the head­lines on the an­tic­i­pated prod­ucts of the year. And let’s not for­get Mahin­dra as well, that has new vari­ants and mod­els com­ing out this year too!

‘For me it was an op­por­tu­nity to also throw in some other out-of-reach

man­u­fac­tur­ers’

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