The second coming of Tata Motors
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