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Tata to share JLR underpinnings

Off the cards: The current-generation Tata Safari is off the agenda for Australia, but next-gen passenger cars are likely.

Fusion to wait for next-gen Tata passenger cars before introducing them to Australia

23 Jul 2014

INDIAN automotive giant Tata Motors is collaborating with its Jaguar Land Rover subsidiary to develop technology for future Tata-branded models, and the new-generation line-up is likely to end up in Australian dealerships.

Development is currently underway on technology and components to be shared between the brands, and the results are likely to surface on next-generation vehicles within five years.

Speaking with local media last week, Tata Motors head of international business RT Wasan said that the shared components may not be in the form of a related platform, but could lead to the three brands sharing some underpinnings.

“I think its two different brands completely,” he said. “If you look at Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors, while there might not be a common platform or a common sharing that we do in the front end, at the back end there is a lot of things that we will be learning from each other.

“There’ll certainly be sharing in terms of aggregates when you talk of engine development in the future. They are looking at commonality between requirements between Tata Motors family of products and JLR family of products. So things like that can be done. They will be sharing in the back-end.” Mr Wasan said that Tata's ownership of JLR will ultimately benefit the Indian company's future product, with improvements to manufacturing processes expected.

“I think this is where one of the biggest advantages we have had with Jaguar Land Rover association now is that a lot of these systems are being taken from JLR and we also have people from JLR helping us in the back end in terms of manufacturing processes,” he said.

Tata acquired Jaguar Land Rover from Ford Motor Company and the plan to share some mechanical underpinnings is similar to Swedish brand Volvo's strategy, which will share parts and possibly platforms with its Chinese parent company, Geely.

Mr Wasan confirmed that Tata would start building Land Rover vehicles at its Indian plant, with the company about to commence production of the Freelander SUV on one of its production lines.

Tata offers a range of about 15 passenger cars and SUVs in its Indian home market, neighbouring countries and parts of South-East Asia and Africa, but none are sold in developing markets, such as Australia.

The local Tata line-up is limited to just one model – the Xenon light-commercial utility – that was re-launched through its local distributor, Fusion Automotive, in October last year.

Fusion Automotive managing director, Darren Bowler said despite the large range of vehicles available in the Tata stable, a push into the passenger segment in Australia would have to wait until the standard of the product meets Australian consumer expectations.

“There are passenger cars available right now that we could pick and choose from, but for us it has got to meet the criteria of safety and value for money so if we are bringing a car into this market, which is the most competitive market in the world, it has got to be the right product and the right fit for the Australian consumer,” he said.

Mr Bowler added that Australian input into vehicle specification had ensured the Xenon went to market with more safety and comfort features than many other markets.

“When we first met the Xenon, that car didn't have an airbag, it didn't have a Euro 5 engine, and ABS had only just been introduced at that time.

“When we sat down in India, we talked about the requirements of what we needed for Australia – it must have airbag, be ahead of game with Euro 5, we want ESC in vehicles. Everything has been put into that based on what we have requested.”

The company showcased its global ambitions with the Nexon crossover concept car that made its debut at the Delhi motor show earlier this year.

Mr Bowler said that the Nexon previews the future design direction of Tata, as well as highlighting technology advances, and that the styling is expected to carry across to production vehicles that should arrive in Australia “within five years”.

He added that Fusion Automotive would likely wait for the next-generation of Tata passengers cars to start surfacing before expanding its local line-up, and ruled out introducing some of the more popular models from its Indian line-up, including the Safari SUV, any sooner.

“At the moment there are no plans for Safari. When we evaluated the whole range of Tata vehicles some two years ago we looked at all of them. It wasn’t package protected from a safety point of view, for what we need. So at this stage there are no plans for current Safari to enter Australia.”

Mr Bowler expressed confidence in securing the next-gen Tata models for the Australian market, but did not detail specific models or time-frames.

“When you talk about passenger cars, they are absolutely on the radar. There is a huge opportunity within the next five years with passenger cars, but it has got to be the right passenger cars, it's got to be the right opportunity.”

Mr Bowler added that the tiny Nano – dubbed India's people's car – has also been ruled out for Australian as it would struggle to gain traction in the ultra competitive market.

“People ask about Tata Nano, 'when are you going to sell that?' It's the people's car of India, and is designed and built for the Indian market. We are not going to have that car in Australia.

“But if you look at what is in the pipeline and the Delhi motor show recently, there was a concept car (the Nexon). That car was showing the global showcase of where Tata's global vision is. And that car is the future of passenger cars within Tata Motors globally. So there is an opportunity for us within that.

“And we can feed into the Tata Motors team of what we need in that car – airbags, ABS, ESC, automatic transmission are key things that we need, but also at the price point that we need it to be as well,” he said.

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