In his previous role, Tim Leverton was overseeing the Phantom project as head of research and development at Rolls Royce. Now, he has swung to the other extreme in the automobile world, and is busy with improving the world’s smallest and cheapest car, the Tata Nano. The Phantom costs Rs 4 crore — and the Nano about Rs 2.4 lakh.
Ignoring the mounting losses, Tatas have been pumping in as much as Rs 3,000 crore a year on product development, and Leverton, who has been heading product engineering for the last four years, plays a critical role — that of filling the gaps in the company’s portfolio of cars, and making it competitive in an increasingly tough market.
“We are looking at over nine volume segments,” he told HT. “We are looking at emerging segments such as compact SUV with the upcoming product Nexon. By 2020 we should have very good market coverage in terms of compact segment and in terms of diesel and gasoline vehicles.”
Under Leverton, the company upgraded the Nano three times, the latest being the Twist, a peppier version with power steering. Work is in progress on a diesel option. Tata Motors has just launched two new cars after five years, developed a new petrol engine series, and adopted a new transmission line. Many products are in the pipeline, including new diesel engines, hybrids and electric options.
Tata Motors opened a new joint research centre with its premium car subsidiary, Jaguar Land Rover, in the UK. “We can learn from JLR’s engineering standards,” Leverton said. “A lot of these processes and knowledge are transferred to us.”
About jointly developing a product, he said: “We are constantly looking at opportunity. As JLR evolve and as we evolve I am not ruling out in the future.”
This may perhaps be the toughest assignment in Leverton’s three-decade career. He is now tipped as a potential successor to the late Karl Slym, who was managing director. “I am not going to comment on that. I am very focused on what I am currently doing,” said Leverton.