After launching the Rs 1 lakh car Nano, and the recent acquisition of luxury brands Jaguar and Landrover, India's largest truckmaker, Tata Motors, is now planning to launch a crossover vehicle.
The new offering would take on competition from established products such as the Toyota Innova and General Motors Chevrolet Tavera, and will be manufactured at its plant in Pune, according to sources.
In March 2005, the company had unveiled Tata Xover, a crossover concept vehicle at the Geneva Motor show. The vehicle, a 7-seater sporting a new generation engine, navigation system, ABS and air bags among other things. The company had at that point said that the vehicle would be designed and engineered for markets in Europe, but there have been no further announcements on the project since then.
It is not clear whether the crossover to be made at Pune is the one that was unveiled at Geneva. Independent sources involved in the project said the vehicle, which will combine the comforts of a luxury car with the features of a sports utility vehicle, is being designed in collaboration with the London-based Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC).
"About 50 per cent of the vendors have already been frozen for the model and the rest will be tied up in the next few weeks," said a Tata Motors executive who did not wish to be identified. "Plans are to start trial production of the crossover in June-July and commercial production for a October- November launch," said one vendor.
A Tata Motors spokesperson, when asked about the project, said "The company, as per policy, does not share information on future product launches".
The Indian market for crossovers has grown in the past few years, partly in tandem with the boom in call centres and outsourcing jobs. Vehicles such as the Tavera and Innova are in great demand with the taxi companies which ferry callcentre and BPO staff.
For instance, Toyota has sold 132,045 units of the Innova since its launch in 2005. Tata Motors has so far had no presence in this segment.
Tata Motor's Pune facility currently rolls out its light truck Ace and people-carrier Magic. These are in the process of being shifted to the company's facility in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand.
Till March, the Pune facility was producing some 6,000 units per month of both these vehicles. This was brought down to 2,000 units in April .
Tata Motors confirmed that the Ace and Magic production is being moved. "It is indeed the purpose of the company to produce the Ace and all related vehicles at Pant Nagar. The Pune plant, where the company is investing Rs 6000 crore over 5 years, will be concentrating on passenger vehicles, pick-ups and light commercial vehicles", the company spokesperson said.